Pandemic vaccine rolled out to aid seasonal flu woes

GPs will be able to offer the 2009 H1N1 pandemic flu vaccine to vulnerable patients to overcome supply problems with the seasonal jab, the DoH has said.

The department will allow GPs to offer at-risk patients the H1N1 monovalent vaccine from last year's pandemic due to persistent issues redistributing the seasonal flu vaccine to areas of need.

GPs can contact PCTs to access to the national stockpile of swine flu vaccine immediately. It is hoped GPs will be able to place direct orders from Monday.

Interim CMO Professor Dame Sally Davies said: ‘I will be writing to GPs to tell them that they can start using H1N1 vaccine based on clinical need, and how they can access and order it.’

It comes as the latest Health Protection Agency (HPA) data shows 50 people have died from seasonal flu since September.

GP consultation rates for influenza-like-illness fell in England to 98.4 per 100,000. The rate was similarly lower in Scotland at 52; Wales remained stable at 89.2, but Northern Ireland rose to 179.5.

However, the data only cover the three days that surgeries remained open between Christmas and New Year.

Recent reports suggest many GPs across the country have been running out of vaccines and are unable to obtain more.

But Dame Sally said the public should be reassured that data suggests there should be enough seasonal vaccine in the system.

She said the H1N1 vaccine would be made available to GPs because it was ‘important to increase the speed and availability of vaccination’.

The DoH also confirmed GPs with surplus of vaccine are allowed to transfer these to local colleagues to meet local demand. This is not normally accepted practice.

A department spokeswoman said: 'If necessary for a specific patient, inter-practice transfers can take place. Health professionals should ensure the maintenance of the cold chain, traceability, provision of current patient information leaflets and summaries of product characteristics.'

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