GP fears over swine flu jab deliveries

Distribution plan criticised as vaccine arrives, while post strike threatens uptake.

H1N1 virus: practices will receive first batches of the vaccine this week
H1N1 virus: practices will receive first batches of the vaccine this week

Practices across the UK are preparing to begin the swine flu vaccination programme, with the first batches of the vaccine arriving this week.

Practices in Scotland and Northern Ireland were due to begin receiving the vaccine from 21 October.

The DoH has confirmed to GP that one box of the GSK vaccine Pandemrix, containing 500 doses, will be distributed to each practice in England and Wales from 26 October.

At the same time, PCTs will also receive supplies of the Baxter vaccine Celvapan and will be responsible for identifying patients allergic to egg, for whom the vaccine will be reserved.

However, vaccines will be delivered in a rolling programme, and some practices will have to wait up to four weeks for the first jabs to arrive. The DoH has advised GPs to contact PCT immunisation leads for delivery dates.

NHS Alliance GMS contract lead Dr David Jenner warned that allocating all practices 500 jabs irrespective of their size was 'brainless'.

He said that large practices may struggle to hit vaccination targets required to earn a reduction in patient survey thresholds, while small practices would receive their full allocation of jabs in the first wave.

However, GPC deputy chairman Dr Richard Vautrey said 500 doses was 'enough for most practices to be able to get on with the vaccination programme'.

The DoH has also admitted there is no mechanism to make sure that areas hit worst by swine flu receive jabs first. Dr Jenner said there was a strong case for prioritising hotspots.

Meanwhile, at a briefing in central London last week, CMO for England Sir Liam Donaldson warned postal strikes due this week could scupper GPs' attempts to invite patients in for vaccinations.

'It is an extremely unwelcome piece of timing. We want to get patients into the surgery as quickly as we can,' he said.

As GP went to press, nationwide 24-hour strikes by Royal Mail staff were expected on 22 and 23 October.

Dr Peter Holden, GPC pandemic flu lead said: 'Most practices invite patients for vaccination by post. It is too time consuming to ring up all the eligible patients.'

Dr George Kassianos, RCGP immunisation spokesman and Berkshire GP, agreed that the postal strikes would be a great disadvantage. 'There is already a great deal of confusion among the public as to whether they require a swine flu jab or a seasonal flu jab. I think uptake for both campaigns will suffer.'

Dr Kassianos said patients should be given reminders on repeat prescriptions and via posters in practices or the local media.

A spokeswoman for the Royal Mail said: 'Royal Mail is recruiting up to 30,000 fully vetted temporary workers to help keep the mail moving during the strikes.'

Deliveries and target groups in England
Deliveries to commenceTotal dosesFirst delivery to
Target groups
26 October Pandemrix4.4 millionGPsPatients in priority groups
26 October Pandemrix236,500PCTs, mental health trusts, ambulance trustsPatients in priority groups Front line health and social care workers
26 October Celvapan49,200PCTsPatients in priority groups with anaphylactic reactions to egg

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