Flu jab panic as UK pharmacies 'run out of stock' after warning of 60,000 winter deaths


    The increase in flu jab uptake comes after warnings sent from health chiefs that flu deaths could reach the highest levels seen for 50 years as a result of lowered immunity. They warned last Friday deaths from the flu could hit over 60,000 after over a year of social distancing has left Britons with low levels of immunity to the virus. Over 35 million people are eligible for a free jab on the NHS boost to the scheme – which includes all over-50s.

    While private patients can pay for the jab through a pharmacy, a member of the Government’s vaccine committee warned private patients should not be given priority.

    Boots pharmacy said they were receiving up to 300 bookings a minute via its online portal on Friday.

    Patients have also reported stocks being low at other pharmacies.

    Taking to Twitter, @bell_allie said: “Book my flu jab with Well Pharmacy. Turned up and they haven’t had stock delivered.”

    Another user, @JacquiCroftie, added: “Booked my flu jab at Tesco. They have supplies. My GP doesn’t know when she will get stock. How can this be?”

    And @sammythedog1989 claimed: All this stuff on TV the last couple of days – ‘get your covid booster, get your Flu Jab’.

    “A 76 years old phoned my doctors this morning, asking ‘when can I get my Covid booster? When can I get my Flu jab?’

    “Answer – no idea we have no stock of either.”

    Pharmacy associations have now warned it could be a luck of the draw for postcodes waiting to receive flu jab supplies in the midst of shortages.

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    Alastair Buxton, the director of NHS Services at the pharmaceutical services negotiating committee, said: “We are seeing some regional variation where stocks have run low and run out in some cases due to a surge in demand.”

    Mark Burdon, a pharmacist in North East England who runs five branches, said entire supplies ran out in a matter of two weeks when they were meant to last the entire duration of the flu season even though he ordered 50 percent more than this time last year.

    Mr Burdon also said that “enormous” demand has been coming from over 65s.

    Wendy Barclay, a professor of virology at Imperial College London and a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SEGA), said people not in the at-risk category should get a jab to protect the elderly.

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    She told BBC Radio Four’s Today Programme: “If you’re likely to have an elderly relative whose own immune system doesn’t work as well as yours and therefore although they get their vaccine, it might not work 100 per cent in them, you can help protect them by getting yourself vaccinated as well.”

    Professor Anthony Harnden, the deputy chairman of the Joint Committee of Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), said the eligible groups set out by the committee should get prioritised over someone who books a private jab.

    He said: “From a JCVI perspective, the groups that we’ve outlined should receive priority and the people outside those risk groups who can pay, which hasn’t been the case for the Covid vaccine, really shouldn’t take preference over those priority groups.”

    He also said pharmacies should prioritise those set out by the JCVI in instances where local supplies are under pressure.

    This also comes after GPs were forced to cancel or postpone appointments last month following supply delays from Seqirus, the UK’s biggest flu jabs supplier.

    The company claimed the delays were due to “unforeseen road freight challenges”.

    But he did state last Friday that the delays were unrelated to Brexit.


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