A paper first published by the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine[i] on 27 October 2021 has proved particularly relevant, given the recent emergence of the Omicron variant.
Highlighting the need for ambitious new pathways involving a reservist workforce to roll out booster COVID-19 vaccines rapidly, particularly if the UK is to respond to future variants, to reduce the possibility of further restrictions or lockdowns. The paper was written by Dr John Willan, Dr Katie Jeffery, Dr Lorenz Kemper, Dr Robbie Scott, Dr Andrew John King and Dr Claire Bayntun, RSM Vice President and a member of the Society’s COVID-19 Steering Group.
The authors point to the extraordinary efforts of healthcare workers and volunteers in delivering the SARS-CoV-2 vaccination programme across the UK.
Now, they say, new pathways must reduce the burden of vaccine delivery on primary care, which is over-stretched and exhausted. It needs to devote its energies to catching up with the clinical care of their patients that has been disrupted over the last 18 months.
The authors are encouraging the Government to consider identifying and training a large number of ‘reservists’ who could be called upon at short notice to deliver vaccinations in community sites such as village halls and places of worship.
Dr Bayntun, who recently chaired an RSM COVID-19 webinar with The Rt Hon Jeremy Hunt[ii], said: “The proposals we set out in our paper are echoed by the report from the inquiry into the Government’s response to the pandemic, led by Mr Hunt and his colleagues on the Health and Social Care and Science and Technology cross-party Committees[iii].
“We must shake off the belief that now that the majority of the population has received a first round of vaccinations everything will settle back to normal in this country. Until vaccines are shared global-wide, we may have waves of new COVID-19 variants for years to come, and certainly the impacts on the global economy will continue to impact our recovery. The International Monetary Fund recently cited a global economic loss of $5.3 trillion over the next five years unless vaccine coverage equity around the world is achieved[iv].”
Dr Bayntun and her co-authors are calling for urgent support to increase COVID-19 vaccination availability around the globe.