Postal strike threatens swine flu vaccination programme

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

24-hour strikes by Royal Mail staff will have an impact on the vaccination programme
24-hour strikes by Royal Mail staff will have an impact on the vaccination programme

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

The DoH has confirmed to GP newspaper 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 exact 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 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.

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

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 jabs.

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

Nationwide 24-hour strikes by Royal Mail staff are expected on Thursday and Friday (22 and 23 October).

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.'

Read this week's GP dated 23 October for the full version of this story


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