Yet another NHS flu jab fiasco! After vaccine that didn’t work, now thousands of over-65s are struggling to get one after improved batch was ordered months later than usual
- Shortages have been reported in areas including Bristol, Kent, Devon and Essex
- The problems have been blamed on the rollout of a new, much more effective jab
- It led to supplies being ordered several months later than they usually are
- One pharmacist has said he does not expect new supplies until after Christmas
- Flu season begins in December, and it takes at least two weeks for jab to work
A flu vaccine shortage has left thousands of over-65s unable to get jabs.
Patients have been repeatedly sent away by GPs and chemists until fresh stocks arrive.
Problems have been blamed on the rollout of a new, more effective jab which led to supplies being ordered several months later than usual. NHS officials insist there will be enough to go around, and another batch is expected to arrive at some GP surgeries from next week.
However, others will not get these new deliveries and there are concerns that many elderly patients who have already been turned away will not bother coming back.
This year the over-65s are being given an improved flu jab called Fluad. But GPs say they were only given official instructions from NHS England in February to use it – four months after they traditionally place orders with suppliers. Pictured is a stock image
Shortages have been reported across the country including Bristol, Kent, Devon, West Sussex, Essex, Derbyshire, Middlesbrough and Liverpool.
The fiasco is the latest flu vaccine crisis to hit the NHS. Last winter, the jab given to millions had little or no effect because one of the strains it targeted had already mutated.
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The flu season usually begins in December, and it takes at least two weeks for the jab to provide maximum immunity. NHS figures yesterday revealed only 45.2 per cent of over-65s have received the vaccine so far this season – down from 61.9 per cent this time last year.
One pharmacist yesterday said he did not expect new supplies until after Christmas, while patients have spoken of being turned away up to four times by their GP.
This year the over-65s are being given an improved flu jab called Fluad. But GPs say they were only given official instructions from NHS England in February to use it – four months after they traditionally place orders with suppliers.
Surgeries were given until the end of March to secure stocks, but many missed the deadline and some never even saw the official guidelines.
NHS England says there are plenty of vaccines available, but they will be delivered to surgeries in phased batches, with the next expected next week. A GP source said: ‘There should be enough vaccines in the market – it’s just no one seems to know where they’ve gone.’ NHS England’s guidance in February had caused ‘absolute chaos’ in surgeries, said the source.
The flu season usually begins in December, and it takes at least two weeks for the jab to provide maximum immunity. Pictured is a stock image
Pharmacists order flu jab supplies on an ad-hoc basis, depending on demand.
However, many have had difficulties getting supplies from wholesalers.
John Billing, 58, a pharmacist in Kingswood, Bristol, said he was turning away up to 15 patients a day, adding: ‘The advice we were given was to tell our customers there wouldn’t be orders placed until after Christmas.
‘It’s getting to the point where some patients are saying “well, I’ll just forget it then this year”. Some of those patients are being referred by their GPs because their GPs haven’t got them either.’
One surgery in Farnham, Hampshire, is restricting vaccines to the over-75s, while some practices in Bristol are only giving it to the over-70s.
A patient in Billingshurst, West Sussex, reported seeing a queue stretching ‘twice around the surgery car park’ for a flu immunisation session that was due to start at 3pm. By 3.30pm, the surgery had run out of jabs. An 80-year-old patient in Liverpool wrote on Twitter that she had been refused her vaccine four times along with her 78-year-old sister, who has chronic asthma.
Last winter, the jab worked for fewer than one in three over-65s because one of the strains it targeted had already mutated.
John Kell, of the Patients Association, said of this year’s supply problems: ‘The NHS offers flu jabs every winter, and winter comes at the same time every year.
‘This clearly presents a very worrying risk to patient safety and could put NHS services under further pressure should there be an early influenza outbreak.’ Jonathan Ashworth, Labour’s shadow health secretary, called the issue ‘a scandal’.
An NHS England spokesman said the vaccine ‘will be available to everyone in time for when the flu season usually starts in December’, adding: ‘GPs and pharmacists were advised as early as March that they have a crucial role to explain to patients that there is enough vaccine supply available.’
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