Doctors angry over lack of flu jab ad campaign

Public health doctors have criticised the DoH's decision not to run an advertising campaign in England encouraging people to get vaccinated against seasonal flu, saying it could cost lives.

Health secretary Andrew Lansley has chosen not to run a national campaign advertising the seasonal flu vaccine for the second year running.

Last winter was beset by local vaccine shortages after initial low uptake led to a late surge in demand for vaccination.

Dr John Middleton, vice-president of the Faculty of Public Health, told The Guardian: 'It's inexplicable that ministers haven't learned the lessons of last year.'

He added: 'It's negligent not to have a campaign that alerts people to the need for this valuable vaccine. It's potentially damaging that people won't get the message this year and that we will see unnecessary cases of flu, unnecessary hospital admissions and potentially there may be some fatalities among people who didn't bother to get vaccinated.'

David Behan, DoH director general of social care, local government and care partnerships, had revealed in a letter to PCT chief executives last month that there were no plans at present to run a flu awareness campaign in England this winter.

The DoH's seasonal flu plan for this winter says that, 'while a national campaign might play a role in increasing early uptake of the vaccine, research suggests that it cannot replace proactive and personalised invitations from GPs to patients.'

GPC Scotland chairman Dr Dean Marshall, BMA negotiator on flu planning, had said there was 'not a great a deal of evidence to suggest big TV campaigns make a big difference to uptake rates'.

Campaigns in Wales and Northern Ireland are to start this month, with an equivalent in Scotland next month.

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