Flu jabs delayed until December

Practices may have to wait until December for flu vaccine deliveries, which will put patients at risk, the GPC has warned.

Meanwhile, the GPC is working with the DoH on a plan to move vaccines from areas that have more than is needed to practices that are facing delays.  

GPs have been advised by the UK Vaccines Group to contact manufacturers of flu vaccine to check when ordered supplies will be delivered.  

A manufacturing problem means vaccine deliveries have been delayed and GPs will be under increased pressure to vaccinate at-risk patients before the season’s virus begins to circulate at the end of the year.  

The advice follows complaints from GPs that they have not been told when to expect vaccine deliveries as the flu jab season looms. The vaccination programme has been put back by at least a month because manufacturers found it difficult to produce sufficient quantities of an H3N2 strain of the virus. The strain is one of three recommended for inclusion in the vaccine by the WHO in February.  

Manufacturers were supposed to have written to all practices in August with revised delivery dates, but some GPs say they have heard nothing.  

A spokeswoman for the UK Vaccines Group said it was a ‘good idea’ for GPs to ‘phone their vaccine suppliers to check on dates for delivery’.  

‘Manufacturers will be able to give customers details of delivery schedules,’ she said.  

GPC chairman Dr Hamish Meldrum said representatives at this month’s GPC meeting reported that the longest wait was until December.  

‘We’ve been in contact with the DoH and one of the things we are looking to do is to identify practices where there is considerable delay.’  

He warned December deliveries might be too late to immunise all patients before the height of the flu season.  

Dr John Peter chief executive of Solvay, said that deliveries of his company’s vaccines would be made in two tranches in September and October.  

‘All the manufacturers have had problems with one of the viral strains, and we are about a month late.  

‘We notified our customers in August so they had plenty of time to organise their clinics around the new delivery dates.’  

David Gibson, of Wyeth Pharmaceuticals, said it would be delivering ‘the bulk of vaccines’ in October and November. ‘I am not aware of any slippage in our schedule for delivery,’ he said.

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