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Flu jabs delay causes alarm

The government warned doctors about the delay in flu vaccines’ distribution. According to doctors some people may be put at risk due to this.//

According to the Department of Health (DoH), there would only be a lag in production and not a long-term shortage. This would result in a few GP practices not getting sufficient vaccine for entitled patients.

"We informed GPs about the industry's production difficulties at the earliest opportunity, so they could plan for any potential problems with the supply of the vaccine," said Dr David Salisbury, the DoH's head of immunisation. "The industry has produced enough vaccine for the UK, though some deliveries may be later than usual."

This DoH caution was given at the time the government started its annual campaign to persuade people at risk of flu to get vaccinated for free. People aged over 65 and diabetics constitute this vulnerable group. Over 75% of the aged people (over 65) were immunized in 2005. The government has sent an alert that severe winter would result in deaths of nearly 40,000 people of which thousands would be due to complications from flu.

Dr Hamish Meldrum, chairman of the British Medical Association's GPs committee, said "It would be quite a challenge for patients before the winter flu season sets in. For some it may be impossible and we will have to hope for a late onset of the annual flu outbreak. There certainly won't be spare supplies to provide jabs for those not in the at-risk groups." He said, "At-risk patients should contact their GPs, who would let them know when vaccines are available."

Conservative shadow Health Secretary Andrew Lansley said, " This is the third year running when there has been a problem with vaccines. I asked ministers two weeks ago for an update on the supply of flu vaccines for this year, and was assured that 15 million doses would be available. Now we learn that they are not."

He said, " I will write to Healt h Secretary Patricia Hewitt asking her to give doctors guidance should a flu epidemic strike when there is a shortage of vaccines. "

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