A major teaching hospital has been forced to suspend its vaccination clinics because it does not have enough eligible people to be vaccinated.
Addenbrooke’s hospital in Cambridge told staff last week that it would not risk wasting the Pfizer vaccine by defrosting a box of 1,170 doses because not enough workers had signed up for their first jab.
Frontline healthworkers are one of four groups getting priority for vaccines, and Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (CUH), which runs Addenbrooke’s, said it had vaccinated 82% of its workers already. Others, including over-70s and care home residents, are being vaccinated elsewhere locally.
Ministers have not yet formally allowed hospitals and GPs to extend the vaccination programme to those in lower categories, including cancer patients and people with heart disease, despite the fact that a number of health experts believe that those groups urgently need the vaccine.
Last week Lord Bethell, the health minister, promised in a Lords debate that he would examine the case for people with learning disabilities to have the vaccine as a priority group. It came after Baroness Hollins, a professor at St George’s hospital medical school in London, revealed that Covid-19 accounted for 80% of deaths of people with a learning disability in the week ending 22 January.
In the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough area, 78% of residents over 70 have received their first dose.
In an email to staff last Wednesday, Addenbrooke’s hospital said: “Unfortunately we do not have enough staff booked into appointments over the next few days to confidently take the decision to defrost the next box of vaccines and risk wasting valuable doses.”
The email said the hospital had “taken the very difficult decision” to cancel all appointments from 3pm on Thursday, and it would begin “limited” clinics from Tuesday.
“Depending on remaining demand, next week’s sessions may unfortunately be the last staff sessions available […] until we commence second doses,” the email continued.
“We know this will be disappointing for those booked to receive their first dose but we cannot be in a position where vaccine is wasted.
“We continue to follow national policy and will therefore be offering second doses 11-12 weeks following the first dose. In response to a number of queries we can confirm that we are not able to offer the vaccine to family members.”
Staff at Addenbrooke’s were given their first jabs on 11 January, so according to the policy they will not receive second doses until the end of March.
A CUH spokesperson said: “Members of the public in the top four priority groups are being vaccinated at accessible sites across the region including GP-led services and larger vaccination centres. More than eight in 10 of our staff, and those closely affiliated, have already had the jab, while the next clinic for colleagues will take place on Tuesday, meaning more staff can get vaccinated and avoiding any doses going to waste.”