Flu jab shortage and potential fourth Covid wave could send winter deaths soaring

Delays in delivering flu vaccines to primary care physicians will lead to delays in vaccination rollout amid fears of high levels of influenza and more coronavirus cases, an expert said.

Appointments for many patients had to be postponed after Seqirus, the UK’s largest flu vaccine supplier, confirmed delays of up to two weeks in England and Wales. “Unforeseen challenges related to delays in road freight transport” were blamed for the disruption.

Experts are also warning the country to prepare for a fourth wave of coronavirus next month as infection rates remain high in much of the UK before schools return and people move into the house after the summer.

Professor Anthony Harnden, vice chairman of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization (JCVI), told BBC Breakfast on Saturday: “This year’s flu shot is clearly very important and the reason it’s so important is because of the lockdowns that are very important little circulated flu levels last winter.

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“So we know that if the previous year had low influenza levels, we often have high infection rates in the following year. So it’s really important to get the flu shot and really important to get it asap.

“It is worrying that there are delays but hopefully this will be corrected soon and we will continue in general practice, we always do.”

GP Online reported that he had been sent a letter asking practices not to reschedule appointments until they received confirmation of a new vaccine delivery date.

A Seqirus spokeswoman said: “Seqirus delivers flu vaccines to all general practitioners in England and Wales. Due to unforeseen challenges in connection with delays in road freight transport, we have informed all of our customers about a resulting delay in their planned vaccine delivery by a maximum of one to two weeks.

“Seqirus is working hard to fix the delay so customers can postpone their flu vaccination clinics.”

Dr. Richard Vautrey, chairman of the British Medical Association’s GP committee, said the problem is likely to affect a “significant portion” of practices.

He warned of “serious effects” on the practice load and patients.

Free flu vaccines will be available to more than 35 million people, including all secondary school students, this winter, the government said.

Meanwhile, concerns about a fourth wave of coronavirus are mounting as health officials decide whether everyone over the age of 50 should get the third vaccination. There are fears that a new spate of infections could emerge in the UK this winter, and experts believe third vaccinations could help curb hospital stays.

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