Published: 14:32, 23 March 2021
| Updated: 15:24, 23 March 2021
Just 30% of patients at a Kent GP practice accepted vaccine offers following "unhelpful" reports about the safety of the AstraZeneca jab.
Dr Gaurav Gupta, who is leading Faversham’s inoculation drive, says he has noticed growing fears among residents about the vaccine over the last fortnight.
This comes as his team – which saw an almost 100% take-up of the jab at the start of the rollout – made only 40 bookings after inviting 140 people to be vaccinated one day last week.
“Of course, we’d expect a little bit of a slowing down of the take-up of the vaccine as we go down the cohorts, but this was quite a surprise to us,” Dr Gupta said.
“It was definitely quite a lot more than we’ve had before, in terms of people being reluctant or hesitant to take the vaccine.
“We’ve had a little bit of a difficult time in the last 10 days or so with people understandably being concerned with the AstraZeneca vaccine.
“I’ve heard similar issues from colleagues in Kent and Medway, as well as nationally, with people having more difficulty getting patients to book appointments.”
The patients messaged about the appointments last week were part of cohort six, which comprises those aged between 18 and 65 with underlying health conditions.
Dr Gupta stresses no injections have gone to waste, as staff in Faversham have continued to call in people eligible for inoculations to fill the empty slots.
He attributes the reluctance to take the Oxford jab to the EU’s decision last week to suspend the use of the vaccine after reports of a small number of blood disorders.
The European Medicines Agency and World Health Organisation have since stated it is safe to take.
“It has been unhelpful,” Dr Gupta added.
“It’s very likely that the concerns that were being highlighted in the last couple of weeks led to fewer people taking it.
“The more annoying thing is it increases risk for our patients as the ones we’re calling are still the highest risk patients who need to be protected as we open up out of lockdown.”
However, Dr Gupta expects there now to be fewer vaccine-sceptics after Oxford University yesterday published results of an American trial that found the jab prevents 100% of severe Covid cases.
The study – the largest to be carried out on elderly people – also showed it stopped 79% of all symptomatic infections, and did not increase the risk of blood clots.
“We are now hearing more reassuring news out of the EU and people are feeling more confident, so I’m hopeful that the cohort rate will increase,” he said.
“I would strongly urge any eligible patients who are thinking about what to do to have a vaccine because their risk will be higher when there are more people out and about.”