Flu campaign hit by new vaccine delay

Further delays have hit UK flu supplies, as the DoH prepares to launch this year’s campaign.

Novartis has warned GP practices to expect delays to supplies due to packaging problems.
It expects to be back on track by mid-October, but nationwide TV and poster campaigns are expected to start at the beginning of the month.

A Novartis spokeswoman said: ‘We had a minor hiccup, but essentially everyone will receive some vaccine.’

The latest set back follows announcements by GSK in August that deliveries of flu vaccine would be later than planned due to slower than anticipated growth of one of the component strains.

For the fourth year running, GPs may face havoc as to ensure at-risk groups are immunised.

Dr George Kassianos, RCGP vaccine spokesman and Berkshire GP, said: ‘Our advice last year was to place orders with more than one manufacturer. We’ve got to sit tight and wait.’

GPs whose supplies are delayed must make sure the elderly and immunosuppressed receive the vaccine first, he added.

This is despite claims by US experts last week that vaccinating the elderly against flu may be pointless.

A review article in the Lancet Infectious Diseases said there is little evidence that vaccinating the over-70s against flu reduced mortality rates.

Excess mortality studies have been unable to confirm a decline in the number of flu deaths since 1980, despite vaccine uptake increasing from 15 to 65 per cent, say Dr Lone Simonsen, from the George Washington University, and colleagues.

But Dr Kassianos said this finding may be because too few people are being vaccinated, meaning herd immunity is not achieved.

‘The vaccination is working, it is our international influenza system that cannot fully match this unpredictable virus,’ he explained.

rachel.liddle@haymarket.com

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