With rise of incidence of flu this winter emergency stocks of the vaccine are being released. A review is to be carried out into whether vaccines should be purchased centrally next year in order to avoid shortages. At present the GPs can procure the jabs directly from manufacturers according to their estimates of patient requirement.
But there seems to be a mismatch between where the stocks were and where the patients who needed it were. Practices are being asked to share any surplus with neighbours and manufacturers have been asked how many doses can be brought in from Europe if necessary. In the meantime, GPs will be able to order from the 12.7 million doses of the last year’s pandemic vaccine called Pandemrix, made by GlaxoSmithKline still being held by government for patients in the risk groups which includes the over 65s, under 65s with other illnesses and pregnant women. It protects against only the H1N1 swine flu strain where as the seasonal flu vaccines, made by a number of manufacturers, protects against this strain and two others, H3N2 and a B strain.
Meanwhile numbers continue to rise. Deaths confirmed as linked to flu have increased by 11 over the last week to reach 50 this winter. The number of people in intensive care peaked earlier this week at 850. Dr Tarit Mukhopadhyay, from University College London said, “It would seem, however, that errors were made in not ordering enough vaccine from the manufacturers, correctly identifying the at risk groups and deciding to drop the flu jab ad campaign.” Professor Dame Sally Davies, the interim chief medical officer for England however added, “We are hearing some stories of the (seasonal flu) vaccine being in one place and the patient being somewhere else… The data we have suggests there should be enough in the system… The message to the public is if they need the vaccine because they are in an at-risk group, they should come forward because we have it in the system.”