Flu vaccine delays 'likely' with no deal Brexit
Author: Ingrid Torjesen
Doctors have warned that a no-deal Brexit is “likely" to disrupt the flu vaccination programme because some doses will not have been delivered before 31 October – the date the UK is due to leave the EU.
Vaccines usually begin to be delivered from August but a delay by the World Health Organisation in deciding which strains to use in this year’s vaccine has impacted on the production of the vaccine meaning that many doses will have to be imported after 31 October.
Royal Colleges and other senior doctors warned about the risks of a no-deal Brexit to the NHS, in an open letter to the prime minister last week.
“The need for preparedness is compounded by the fact that we are scheduled to leave the EU, potentially on a no-deal basis, just as flu and the winter season begins. Even a ‘moderate’ flu season places significant additional pressure on the NHS. Your EU exit strategy must include provision for different flu scenarios, and the secretary of state is well placed to coordinate that,” the letter said.
Last night Professor Andrew Goddard, president of the Royal College of Physicians, went further, telling BBC’s Newsnight programme that problems were likely to be compounded by low flu coverage due to vaccine delays
"What we can see is we're likely to not have enough flu vaccine, we are likely not to have the flu vaccine coverage that we've had in previous years, and that is likely to have an impact on the NHS," he said.
The flu season in Australia is often taken as an indicator of what the UK can expect for the coming winter.
This year in Australia there has been higher number of cases of flu than in most of the previous five years, and there have been more deaths than in any of the past five years other than 2017.
Professor Goddard told Newsnight: "If there is a significant outbreak, or even an epidemic, it won't just bring more patients to hospitals, GPs and health clinics - especially older people and other vulnerable groups - but could also keep the very staff needed to treat them at home, with sickness levels rocketing at exactly the wrong time."