Britain took delivery of its first shipment of Pfizer's coronavirus vaccine on Thursday night, and all systems are go for the two-shot vaccinations to begin Tuesday. Many doctors and nurses, having been told they'd be in the first group to get the shots, had made their appointments. Then the government changed its mind, the Washington Post reports. Britain expects 800,000 doses this month, and it now fears that supply could run out just in covering people living in nursing homes and their caregivers—the groups already given top priority. People over 80 are at the top of the list, too. And this shipment "could be the only batch we receive for some time," said an official of a National Health Service organization. So the doctors and nurses have been moved back in the vaccine line. Logistical issues, such as transporting a vaccine that one official called "delicate," are compounding the distribution difficulties. They could lead to "blending" of the high-priority recipients, per the BBC.
Throughout the pandemic, Britain has celebrated its health care workers, who didn't see this decision coming. One official said politicians added to the confusion by talking up the commitment to vaccinating NHS workers right away. A mental health nurse in London said it's that confusion that's most upsetting. Rachel Luby said she doesn't argue with giving the doses quickly to people over 80. "What does affect me is the message from the government, time and again, that they simply do not care about the lives of those who work in the NHS," she said. "They 'clapped for us and then they slapped us' is the way that I and many front-line colleagues feel." Luby said health care workers think of the vaccine as a tool to help them do their jobs, and that tool isn't being given to them. The nation has 3.2 million people 80 and older, at least 300,000 nursing home caregivers and more than 1.4 million NHS workers competing for those 800,000 doses of vaccine. (Pfizer cut its forecast for vaccine shipments this year.)