GPs have warned that the autumn roll-out of the Covid booster vaccine may be “unviable” because they do not have enough money or staff.
They are calling for the return of the £10 bonus offered last year to GPs for every intervention in care homes.
GPs are being asked to lead a coronavirus jab, a massive national flu immunization program and a polio booster in London this autumn.
Dr. Preeti Shukla, of the British Medical Association’s General Practitioner Committee, said: “Given the current well-documented pressures on GP practices and the reduction in funding for the supply of these vaccines, we have serious concerns about their introduction.”
She called for GP payments to be returned to the same level as last year “rather than trying to provide a cheap support programme”.
Around 29 million Britons aged over 50 and patients with co-morbidities are queuing up to receive Moderna’s new Omicron within weeks in a bid to keep pressure on the NHS.
The “bivalent” vaccine – which targets the original Wuhan strain and the new variant – was approved in the UK yesterday and an update from Pfizer is expected “in the next few weeks”.
However, vaccines must be refrigerated until used, like the original mRNA vaccine, which will become more expensive this year with rising energy costs, GPs say.
GPs have warned that the autumn roll-out of the Covid vaccine with Moderna’s new Omicron-focused vaccination program will be “unviable” because many practices cannot afford to hand them out without last year’s bonuses.
People over 50, residents and staff in care homes for older adults and frontline health and social care workers will receive an autumn Covid booster. In addition to these groups, people between the ages of 5 and 49 who are clinically at risk, living with or caring for an immunosuppressed person will also be eligible.
What is Omicron specific from Moderna and how does it work?
What are they and how do they differ?
Moderna’s new strike builds on their current Covid booster, which was already in place for 9.4 million Brits as of July 26.
The new jab is “bivalent”, meaning it contains genetic information from two strains of the Covid virus.
One of them is the original Wuhan strain on which the current strikes are based.
The new part is material specifically related to Omicron to strengthen protection against newer versions of the virus.
Why is it needed?
Viruses like Covid evolve and change over time, making the protection provided by older vaccines and infections from previous strains less effective
This makes it more likely that people will get the virus and need hospital care.
How does it work?
Like other Covid mRNA vaccines, the injection contains genetic code from the virus that is injected into the body.
This code triggers cells to produce the spike protein found on the outside of the Covid virus.
The body’s immune system then learns to recognize this part of the virus and later defends itself better with it.
For a new sting, this includes the spike protein of the original Covid strain and the Omicron variant.
Omicron had more than 30 mutations that make its spike protein different from the original Wuhan strain.
How much more effective is the new strike against Omicron?
Moderna’s study of the new injection in 800 people found that it raised antibody levels against the original Omicron eightfold.
And in a separate study, the sting was also found to be more effective against the currently dominant BA.5 strain, outperforming the older version by 5.4 times.
Who gets it and when?
The strike will be included in the autumn reinforcement campaign, which starts early next month.
As part of the action, Britons over 50 who are vulnerable to the virus will be asked to step up next month.
Other groups included in this rollout include care home and NHS staff and household contacts of immunosuppressed people such as cancer patients.
The sting will not be offered to any specific group, but will be included with other already approved boosters.
Last year, GPs were paid £12.58 per sting as they were put front and center in the Government’s booster unit over Christmas.
They were also entitled to a £10 surcharge to vaccinate care home residents.
However, the standard contract has been reduced to £10.06 for each vaccine, while the £10 bonus has been reduced following the introduction of boosters in January.
Dr. Michelle Drage, chief executive of London’s local medical boards, which represent most of the capital’s 1,200 practices, warned that staff shortages could also be a problem.
She said GPs do not have the resources to introduce covid, flu and polio vaccinations at the same time this autumn.
Dr Drage told the Independent: “The current workforce crisis is simply that there are not enough GPs and nurse practitioners to do the day-to-day work.
“Prioritizing urgent public health vaccinations means that something will have to be given up between routine appointments and the rapid vaccination of several million Londoners.”
GPs earn an average of £100,000 a year.
The NHS has offered every care home resident a spring booster without an additional £10 GP incentive and the autumn booster has not yet been finalised.
The new Moderna Covid vaccine is a half-and-half vaccine made from the genetic material of the original Wuhan Covid strain and Omicron.
That varies from the current generation of strikes that are based only on the first strain and are less effective against newer variants.
The injections will be offered to all people over 50 and younger with chronic conditions
Nine million doses are already available, with another 20 million expected by the end of the year. Britain ordered 54 million doses of Pfizer’s new offering last year.
Officials say they have “no concerns about the supply” of the new punches for this fall’s rollout.
Vaccines Secretary Maggie Throup told Good Morning Britain: “Of course we are getting stock of more new vaccines… and over the next few weeks we are getting more stock, but there are more vaccines online.
“So we’re pretty confident that we’ll be able to provide a bivalent vaccine program within the next few weeks.”
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization (JCVI) – which advises the government on vaccination policy – wants the new jabs to be given as a default.
She stated that “it would be preferable to have one type of booster vaccine offered throughout the duration of the autumn programme”.
But the panel said additional boosters would be available for use and urged Britons to take any vaccine on offer as they all still provide good protection.
Professor Anthony Harnden, deputy chair of the JCVI, said people who are eligible for a Covid booster should not worry about what type of vaccine they receive.
“The key point is that people need to get vaccinated rather than worrying too much about the type of vaccine they get,” he told BBC Breakfast.
“These are all very good vaccines that have been shown to be effective against serious diseases – that is hospitalization and death.
“The whole basis of the program is to target these vulnerable people to keep their immunity charged to protect against serious illness.
“So the message really is, get your booster and don’t worry too much about the type of vaccine you’re getting.
“But for simplicity, we’re going to try to use one vaccine, and we believe that this bivalent vaccine is potentially a very good vaccine, so we’re going to use it first.”
Health bosses are bracing for one of the harshest winters on record for the NHS, with the triple whammy of Covid, flu and the cost of living crisis expected to cause a surge in excess income.
While it was designed to target the original BA.1 Omicron variant that entered the country in late 2021, the modern strike is also effective against the BA.4 and BA.5.
These newer sub-variants were behind the recent meteoric rise in Covid cases, which is now on the wane.
However, some experts have warned that the new injections could encourage the emergence of new variants that may be more resistant to vaccines than Omicron.
This was said by Professor Jonathan Ball, a molecular virologist at the University of Nottingham
He said: “The virus is unlikely to stand still and Omicron-targeted immunity could push the virus down further evolutionary paths.
‘IN [this] In case we’re like the Red Queen in Alive Through The Looking Glass – we’ll have to keep running to stay in the same place.
“This means that unless there is a major shift in the virus, immunity will continue to protect the vast majority from serious disease caused by emerging variants, so it is important to get vaccinated or boosted, especially if you are vulnerable.”
In its announcement yesterday, the JCVI recommended that the new vaccine be included in the booster phase, which is scheduled to begin on September 1.
However, the group said it is still unclear how much better it will perform in the real world compared to the proven and tested vaccines currently being released.
It said getting any booster was a priority.
Professor Wei Shen Lim, JCVI Chair of Covid 19 Immunisation, said: “It is important that everyone who is eligible gets a booster this autumn, regardless of which vaccine is on offer.
‘This will increase your protection against serious illness from COVID-19 as we move into winter.’
The fall campaign includes Moderna’s old Jab and Pfizer’s booster.
The Novavax vaccination will also be offered to those who cannot receive the mRNA vaccine for health reasons.
Vulnerable people under the age of 17 will only be offered the Pfizer booster.