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IGPM: Vaccine hesitancy surrounding AstraZeneca jab should be addressed ‘swiftly’

by Jess Hacker
17 March 2021

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Any reluctance to be vaccinated following media reports on the AstraZeneca vaccine should be ‘addressed swiftly’, the Institute for General Practice Management (IGPM) has said.

The practice manager body confirmed that it was aware of some practices experiencing cancellations as ‘patient concern escalates’ over the decision by some European countries to temporarily suspend the AstraZeneca vaccine following reports of blood clots.

Countries including Germany and Spain have now suspended use of the vaccine pending a review of the evidence.

But while the UK medicines regulator has urged people to continue to have the vaccine, the situation in Europe is also reportedly having an impact on some services here.

An IGPM spokesperson told Management in Practice: ‘Patients are undoubtedly worried as the media reports concerns over the AstraZeneca vaccine. We are aware that some practices are experiencing cancellations as patient concern escalates, and each practice will be responding to those concerns individually.’

They added: ‘It is important that any reluctance to be vaccinated is addressed swiftly and practice managers will already have measures in place to ensure that vaccine wastage is kept to an absolute minimum.’

GPs have also told Management in Practice’s sister title Pulse that the concerns surrounding the vaccine have led to a spike in patient enquiries, cancellations and Did Not Attends (DNAs).

Increase in queries

Other practices have reported little, if no, impact on their vaccination clinics.

Blake Foster, practice manager for Chapelgreen Practice in Sheffield, told Management in Practice: ‘From an individual practice perspective I can advise that so far we have had relatively low disruption in relation to the concerns of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

‘We had an increase in queries from patients and in-depth conversations prior to giving the vaccine, but (touch wood) we have seen very low rates of people declining the vaccine.’

Emma Jacobs, practice manager for Walnut Tree Health Centre in Milton Keynes, said her practice’s patients are also still happy to go ahead with vaccination.  

She added: ‘At clinic last week only one patient asked for more info and then went ahead with the vaccine. This week we are only hearing about concerns but no cancellations. If patients are really concerned they are able to discuss with our lead nurse. 

‘Receptionists tell me patients are still happy with it. We are using an automated booking system but some do call in to check it’s a genuine invite and then ask which vaccine we are using at the clinic but seem satisfied to still book.’

Ms Jacobs added that the practice has used its Facebook page to reissue statements from the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) confirming that there is no evidence the vaccine is unsafe.

Dr Phil Bryan, MHRA vaccines safety lead, said in a statement (16 March) that the benefits of the vaccine in preventing Covid-19, with its associated risk of hospitalisation and death, ‘far outweigh’ the risks of side effects.

‘People should go and get their Covid-19 vaccine when asked to do so,’ he said.

‘It is still the case that it has not been confirmed the reported blood clots were caused by the Covid-19 vaccine AstraZeneca. Blood clots can occur naturally and are not uncommon.’

Reassuring patients

The Royal College of General Practitioners has also issued a statement in a bid to reassure patients.

Professor Martin Marshall, RCGP chair, said: ‘The public should be reassured that whilst these new vaccines were developed and approved at speed, no corners were cut and patient safety has been, and remains, paramount.
‘The MHRA has been unable to confirm that the reports of blood clots were caused by the vaccine and is advising people to get their vaccine when asked to do so.’
He added: ‘The message we are hearing back from our GP members is that patients are following this advice, and GPs and our teams are continuing with the vaccination effort to ensure that as many people as possible are protected, as quickly as possible.’

NHS England said in a primary care bulletin yesterday (16 March): ‘In a review of all available safety data from over 17 million people vaccinated with AstraZeneca vaccine in UK and EU, there was no evidence of an increased risk of blood clots among people vaccinated with its vaccine.’

The European Medicines Agency’s (EMA) investigation into the thromboembolic events is ongoing, but the body has said it ‘currently remains of the view’ that the benefits of the AstraZeneca vaccine in preventing Covid outweigh the risks of side effects.