Published: 20:20, 18 January 2021
| Updated: 21:08, 18 January 2021
Hundreds of coronavirus vaccine doses were sent to the wrong GP practice forcing appointments to be pushed back.
The blunder affecting patients in Whitstable highlights the biggest issue doctors are facing while trying to roll out the vaccine across the community, a leading GP says.
Dr John Ribchester, executive partner at Whitstable Medical Practice, said a delivery was expected at the Estuary View drive-thru vaccine centre on Tuesday morning.
A flurry of phonecalls and emails when it failed to arrive by 8.30am in time for the morning's scheduled appointments established the consignment had been sent to a surgery in Lordswood – nearly 30 miles away.
The delivery of the AstraZeneca jabs arrived on site in Whitstable just 20 minutes before the start of the afternoon's appointments.
Dr Ribchester says 350 of the morning's appointments were rescheduled for the next morning adding no doses were wasted.
The GP said: "It was unfortunate, the supply chain is having some problems. It's not just us. We have a WhatsApp chat and it's on the go the whole time.
"Everyone is reporting the same problem. Either it's turning up in small numbers or rather we have more capacity than vaccines to give. In some cases it's not turning up at all."
A consignment due to arrive at Estuary View on Friday also failed to arrive.
Dr Ribchester said the supply chain problems remains the "single biggest challenge" for the vaccination programme as surgeries have to take what they're given.
"We've got capacity for 1,000 a day but not if we've not got any," he added. "People are operating at less than capacity.
"Unfortunately we're not getting the vaccine we want."
Despite the problems more than 4,000 vaccinations have been given to "all but a couple of hundred" over 80s and all care home residents. It is now being offered to social care workers and community pharmacies across the Whitstable Primary Care Network (PCN) – the partnership of surgeries organising local vaccinations.
KMTV spoke to a couple in their 90s from Deal who are still waiting for their vaccines
Dr Ribchester said the "push system" in place means that "what arrives arrives" but doctors were pushing national NHS supply managers to switch to a system where surgeries can list their required order based on what they need which gives "a certainty of having it delivered".
Patients are being urged to make sure they arrive for their vaccination slots and a consignment of 800 doses is due to be delivered on Thursday with a drive-thru clinic planned for Saturday for patients aged 78 and 79.
Practice managers have issued advice to help prevent long queues of traffic building and allow a smooth flow of vaccinations this weekend after chaotic scenes earlier this month.
An update on the Whitstable Medical Practice Facebook page said: "We are working as quickly as we can to vaccinate eligible patients but are entirely restricted by the supply of vaccine at present.
"If you are attending our drive-thru clinic please may we insist that someone drives you to your appointment.
"This prevents our drive thru from becoming congested and also means patients will not have to wait for 15 minutes after their vaccination."
At the Downing Street briefing today, health secretary Matt Hancock said more than four million vaccinations have been given and more than half of over 80s and care home residents have received a jab.
Mr Hancock added the government remains "on course" to deliver vaccinations to the 15 million most vulnerable by mid-February as he announced expanding the roll out to the over 70s and extremely clinically vulnerable groups.
He said: "Anybody aged over 80 but who has not yet received a vaccine, we will reach you. The NHS will contact you in the next four weeks."