Doctor warns under 40s that covid vaccine has limited shelf-life

Woolpit Health Centre will have a new community car park built next to it

A Woolpit Health Centre GP has asked people to book the first appointment offered as the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine needs to be used within 72 hours. - Credit: West Suffolk CCG

A Suffolk doctor has warned under 40s that the limited shelf-life of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine means it could be thrown out as some people struggle to get appointments in the latest jab roll-out. 

GP at Woolpit Health Centre Richard West said keeping the "unstable" vaccine - which is being offered to under 40s due to Oxford/AstraZeneca blood clot concerns - at a certain temperature means the surgery would have been in danger of throwing it away if people had not come forward. 

The GP surgery sent over 3,000 texts to patients but did not get much take up until Mr West said they might have to throw the vaccine away on the radio and on social media.

"I've caused a bit of chaos," he admitted, as the phone lines were jammed as people booked appointments this morning. 

But Mr West added: "When you have 1,200 [vaccines] to do in two days you haven't got a lot of flexibility. 

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"It's taken an awful lot of effort to get everyone in to get every dose. 

"We just have 72 hours to use it in, which is a very limited period of time."

Some Suffolk patients have reported to this newspaper being told through the NHS to travel to Southampton to get their Covid-19 vaccine. 

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But Mr West claims lockdown easing and the younger vaccine recipients has also made it harder to get patients booked in. 

Text messages are being sent this week asking people to book an appointment – if they are over 35 – as the rollout moves down to get people in the UK vaccinated. 

"Young people don't see a risk to them," he said. "When we started [vaccinating] in lockdown, you could either stay in your home or get vaccinated."

But now, he said, people are out and about and they think they can "do it tomorrow". 

"It's a short time window we have at the [Woolpit Health Centre]."

People who have had their first vaccine are also less at risk of going to the hospital or getting Covid-19 amid concerns that the Indian variant - which has been detected in Suffolk - could hold up the relaxation of lockdown

Mr West said this could "potentially cause a problem" and urged people to take the first vaccine appointment offered by their GP, or NHS booking service

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