By Jo Carlowe.
GP leaders have issued a statement on the flu immunisation, following reports that supply is not meeting demand.
Professor Martin Marshall, chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) said: "We are hearing reports that supply is not meeting demand but this seems to be affecting pharmacies more than GPs at present - and this the biggest-ever flu vaccination programme with 30 million people now eligible for the free vaccine.”
In July, the government announced it had expanded its flu jab programme to ‘ready the NHS’ for winter pressures and a potential second peak of COVID-19 by extending eligibility for free vaccinations to include people aged 50-64. People in this category have been told they ‘should be contacted about a flu vaccine later in the year’.
Professor Marshall said: "We have asked the Government for reassurance that there is enough vaccine supply to go round and for government guidance on prioritisation if the shortages turn out to be more widespread.
"GPs plan meticulously and well in advance for the annual flu programme every year, but the additional cohort of year 11 school children and over 50s were included in this year’s programme, at a fairly late stage, so GPs are working hard to ensure that priority is given to those in the traditional 'at risk' groups, such as the elderly, those with pre-existing health problems like asthma and pregnant women. GPs are not rationing flu jabs but rather prioritising patients most in urgent need.
"We urge patients in these vulnerable and at-risk groups to arrange a flu jab if they haven’t already. They can be reassured about the safety of having the vaccine at their GP surgery as GPs are going to great lengths and taking every precaution to ensure that practices are safe.
"The flu jab is the best protection we have against influenza and the current COVID-19 pandemic makes this even more important than usual, so we ask the over-50s who are otherwise healthy not to be put off if they are unable to get the vaccination immediately but to understand that there might be others in greater need."
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