The delay in flu vaccine delivery is “worrying” for general practitioners amid fears of high levels of flu caused by lockdowns, 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.
The company blamed “unforeseen challenges related to delays in road freight transport” for the disruption.
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.
“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 as soon as possible.
“It is worrying that there are delays but hopefully this will be corrected soon and we will continue in general practice, we always do.”
An apparent brain drain from EU countries of truck drivers who returned to and stayed on the continent during the coronavirus pandemic has been blamed for the upheavals in economic sectors in recent weeks.
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.
Shadow Health Secretary Jon Ashworth said: “General practitioners are at the end of their wisdom, first being forced to cancel blood tests for lack of bottles, and now we are learning that flu vaccines are being delayed.
“This has been a summer of crisis for the NHS with patients paying the price.
“The upcoming winter and the flu flare-up are a huge risk that ministers urgently need to get under control.”
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.
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