Flu jab not available in the UK for those most vulnerable

There are fears in the UK that people who are vulnerable to flu infections may well have to wait for their annual injection this season.

The reason appears to be two-fold; Government stocks are late being delivered and some health workers say that local doctors instead of prioritising at-risk groups, have been bowing to the demands of the "worried well".

The flu injection is as a rule given to high-risk groups first, such as the over-65s, people with respiratory conditions such as asthma, and those with chronic conditions such as diabetes,chronic heart disease, chronic renal disease, chronic liver disease, and those with a compromised immune system; those living in long-stay residential care homes or long-stay facilities are also at high risk.

Deliveries to GP surgeries have been delayed because manufacturers were forced to switch to growing a flu strain for the vaccine called 161B after another strain, Wisconsin 161, failed to grow.

The Department of Health which ordered 15.2 million doses for across the UK, a million more than last year, has warned that some surgeries in England would have to share their stocks.

Last year 2m doses were delivered by the end of September and 10.5m by the end of October.

Amid fears that an early flu season could leave thousands without protection from the annual jab, Dr David Salisbury, director of immunisation at the Department of Health, says they want to be sure that doctors are using their vaccine wisely so that people with clear risk factors, according to a priority list, are receiving the vaccine first.

This is the third consecutive year that there have been problems with flu vaccinations when supplies have run short because of excess demand.

The warning coincides with the start of a national advertising campaign reminding people at risk to get their flu jab.

Because the virus constantly mutates a new flu vaccine has to be produced each year.

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