Less than a week after Britain began to introduce the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus shot — becoming the first nation in the world to administer a fully tested vaccine to the public — primary care doctors in England will begin offering doses to their patients.
Beginning on Monday, the shots will be delivered to more than 100 vaccination centers in villages, towns and cities by groups of doctors, the National Health Service said. The injections will still be prioritized, with the staff and residents of nursing homes and those aged 80 and over among the first in line as the country expands its program.
The physicians, known in Britain as general practitioners, face an “enormous challenge” to implement the mass vaccination program while also offering their usual services for patients, Prof. Martin Marshall, chairman of the Royal College of General Practitioners, said in a statement.
But the primary care doctors take a major role in administering other vaccines, such as those for seasonal flu, and Professor Marshall said, “We want to use this experience to help protect people from Covid-19 and start getting life back to normal again.”
Tens of thousands of vaccinations have already been given since the campaign began last Tuesday in hospitals around Britain. But the country received an initial batch of just 800,000 doses — or enough to vaccinate 400,000 people, because each person requires two doses — and it is still unclear when more will become available. Britain has a population of about 66 million.
Vaccinations will also begin in nursing homes later this week, the health service said, after stringent policies around the delivery of the doses were finalized. More doctors and pharmacies in the country will join the program “on a phased basis” over the next few months, the health service added, urging patients not to request the vaccine because doctors would directly contact those in priority groups to offer them the shot.
The vaccine program comes as cases continue to surge in Britain, with 18,447 new infections reported on Sunday and 144 deaths according to a Times database. The nation has reported about 1.8 million total cases and some 64,000 deaths since the pandemic began.
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