7 January 2011 | Angeline Albert
The Department of Health (DH) has said vaccine shortages at some local surgeries would be managed by transferring doses from well-stocked practices.
“There is a shortage at a local level with some GP surgeries not having enough flu vaccines to meet demand,” a DH spokeswoman said. “Vaccines will be distributed to surgeries in need from surgeries that have a good supply. There is no national shortage.”
The seasonal flu vaccine protects against swine flu and two other strains of flu. There is still a healthy supply of swine flu vaccine, which DH said individual GPs could use to protect against that particular strain.
According to results published by the Health Protection Agency this week, from 12 September 2010 until the end of the year, 50 flu-related deaths were reported. The majority of fatal cases reported were of individuals who had not been immunised.
In February 2010, the World Health Organization announced which strains of flu should be included in the vaccination programme and by the end of August, the manufacturing process for vaccines was complete. GPs placed vaccine orders in the first quarter of 2010 and 14.7 million doses were delivered in the UK for the winter season.
By 26 December 2010, the proportion of people in England aged over 65 years who had received the 2010/11 influenza vaccine was 70 per cent. For those in a risk group aged under 65 it was 45 per cent.
Alison Lawrence, spokeswoman for the UK Vaccine Industry Group (UVIG) which represents UK vaccine suppliers, said an “unexpected rise in demand happened just before Christmas”.
She added: “It is an unplanned for and unforeseen increase in demand. It’s very unusual. GPs are typically very well organised in terms of ordering supplies. The DH contacted us to ask companies what unallocated stocks were available outside the UK which could be made available. Some companies had unallocated stock. Currently, there may be a few thousand doses unallocated by firms.”