Flu vaccine shortage hits Crow country

HEALTH officials in Hertfordshire have said there is an “unprecedented” shortage of flu vaccinations available as they struggle to cope with high levels of illness.

They also stressed the need for those in the ‘at risk’ groups to come forward and be vaccinated.

In Crow country, the Ashwell and Bassingbourn surgery was down to its last 10 unallocated vaccine doses, while another surgery has advised patients to look elsewhere for them.

Debra Stapleton, practice manager for Ashwell and Bassingbourn surgeries, which serves 7,900 people, said: “Patients who we consider ‘at risk’ were invited in for vaccinations as they are every year.

“Usually they don’t all turn up, but as it’s been so bad this year, many have.

“Normally when this happens we can just order more in, but the demand across the country has been unprecedented this year, and no one could have predicted it.

“We have asked about more supplies and are keeping a waiting list according to the groups we are told to vaccinate first.

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“This includes pregnant women, people with underlying conditions, such as asthma and diabetes, and those who have had chemotherapy. We can’t vaccinate the worried well at the moment.”

Mrs Stapleton says that reported deaths from flu this year have contributed to more people coming forward and having the vaccines, and added she did not know when new batches would be ordered in.

“We haven’t ordered any more in yet as the demand is so high, though we are speaking to the Primary Care Trust (PCT) to see if there is any available,” she said.

We simply don’t know where we are going to get them from.”

A spokesman for the Department of Health said: “We are continuing to encourage PCTs to work closely with general practitioners to resolve any seasonal flu vaccine supply issues locally.

“If efforts to source seasonal flu vaccine locally have not been successful, then the N1N1 monovalent vaccine can be offered to those eligible for a seasonal flu vaccination. This vaccine is licensed for use.”

A spokesman for NHS Hertfordshire, and chairman of the Royal College of GPs Dr Claire Gerada, both said that those who had been invited for vaccines should have priority.

The spokesman for NHS Herts said: “We would urge patients in one of the ‘at risk groups’ who have not yet had the vaccine to contact their own GPs for advice and to arrange to be vaccinated.”