It has been billed as the largest flu vaccination programme in historical past – the Authorities’s plan for everybody over the age of fifty to get the jab on the NHS this winter. The goal is to guard 30 million susceptible Britons – round 10 million greater than in earlier years – in a bid to keep away from a so-called ‘twindemic’ of a nasty flu season and a second wave of coronavirus.
The launch of the programme on October 4 was accompanied by a compelling promoting marketing campaign warning that ‘in a median yr, flu kills about 11,000 folks… and this isn’t a median yr’.
First within the queue for the jab have been these over 65, pregnant girls and people with sure pre-existing medical circumstances. And on Friday, Well being Secretary Matt Hancock introduced the following part – with these aged 50 to 64 to be supplied a free jab from December 1.
However because the UK enters probably the most lethal quarter of the yr for influenza deaths, it seems the bold plan could already be faltering.
Restricted provide: Docs are ready for extra vaccines to reach. The Authorities plans for everybody over the age of fifty to get the flu jab on the NHS this winter
Pharmacies and GP surgical procedures throughout the nation have been unable to get important provides of flu vaccines since early October, a Mail on Sunday investigation has discovered.
We’ve obtained studies of sufferers as previous as 87 nonetheless ready for a jab, whereas others who’re at excessive danger of extreme flu, together with these with diabetes and coronary heart illness, and those that take care of disabled kids or aged kin with dementia, additionally haven’t been in a position to get vaccinated. In the meantime, housebound aged individuals are being denied the jab, as house visits have been suspended.
Final weekend, our GP columnist Dr Ellie Cannon requested readers in the event that they’d been hit by the shortages – and we have been deluged with emails and letters. Readers from throughout the nation instructed strikingly comparable tales, with a lot of them left terrified by warnings of the possibly lethal penalties of catching flu and Covid on the similar time.
Teresa Elliot, 72, from Bedfordshire, who has kind 1 diabetes, stated she had been making an attempt to get a jab for the previous six weeks and was ‘scared to go away the home’ till she bought one. Having referred to as her native clinic she claimed: ‘I used to be instructed to ring up once more in December, as they didn’t have any, they usually weren’t certain they’d have any jabs then both.’
Carol Knowles, 63, a kind 2 diabetic and carer for her severely disabled 24-year-old son who has cerebral palsy and is quadriplegic and blind, says neither she nor her son have been capable of finding a jab. Carol stated: ‘I’ve spent most Christmases in hospital on respiratory wards with my son. He’s extraordinarily susceptible. Our GP, chemists and Tesco haven’t had any vaccines for weeks… what are we purported to do?’
Jennine Saunders, from Pontyclun in Wales, claimed her 87-year previous father tried ‘for weeks’ to get a vaccine and was finally instructed ‘to not name once more’.
The flu jab can not offer you flu – it doesn’t comprise a reside virus so it might’t make you unwell.
And Denise McNally, from Liverpool, stated her 85-year-old mum has been asking for a flu jab since September. ‘She is afraid to go open air proper now. Her surgical procedure retains saying she’s on the listing for a go to, I’d prefer to know when,’ stated Denise.
A part of the issue is confusion. Greater than 300 of those that wrote to us have been aged between 50 and 64 and had believed – having seen the publicity surrounding the Authorities’s ‘largest ever’ vaccination plan in July – they’d be eligible for the jab as quickly because the season started in September.
In late July, Prime Minister Boris Johnson urged: ‘Everybody ought to have a flu jab within the run as much as this winter.’ London Mayor Sadiq Khan, 50, was pictured having the jab.
Regardless of the Authorities saying jabs for over-50s would begin in December, numerous readers of their 50s who wrote to us stated they’d been instructed by their GP to not count on it till January.
However the subject isn’t solely one in all miscommunication. There have additionally been provide issues which have been, in response to insiders, ‘anticipated’ from the second the Authorities conceived its scheme.
Usually, GP surgical procedures and pharmacists buy flu jabs from medicine producers in March, to reach in September initially of flu season. However, in an unprecedented transfer, in Might, Ministers approached pharmaceutical corporations on to request further inventory – a transfer described as a ‘logistical headache’ by one insider.
Signal of the occasions: NHS flu station in a parking lot on the Ascot Racecourse. Pharmacies and GP surgical procedures throughout England have been unable to get important provides of flu jabs since early October
By the point the Authorities made its bid, the businesses have been preoccupied with assembly earlier orders from everywhere in the world, in response to Hugo Fry, managing director of UK-based medicine agency Sanofi, the world’s largest supplier of flu vaccines.
Whereas Sanofi and different pharmaceutical corporations agreed to ship further inventory later within the yr, ‘each authorities within the Northern hemisphere was additionally ordering further inventory,’ slowing issues down additional.
Early final week, that extra inventory, a million vials of Sanofi’s Flublok jab, arrived.
Different main suppliers, GlaxoSmithKline and Mylan, have additionally agreed to provide extra jabs, totalling seven million doses, that are anticipated to reach by the top of this month.
In truth, just one firm, Seqirus, was in a position to present further inventory earlier, in October.
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On the similar time, GPs and pharmacies have been met with unprecedented demand far earlier within the season, so jabs reportedly ran out in lots of areas.
The timing couldn’t be worse, as flu deaths and hospitalisations start to rise within the early autumn because the climate will get colder.
As a result of Covid pandemic and elevated social distancing, this yr flu charges have been remarkably low – which ought to come as some reassurance.
However in response to Workplace for Nationwide Statistics knowledge, there have nonetheless been greater than 3,000 deaths attributed to flu and pneumonia since September.
There have been additional issues with the Authorities’s new strategy, in response to Ravi Sharma, England director of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society.
He stated pharmacists have ‘struggled to order new inventory’ due to a ‘irritating’ delay in steerage on find out how to entry it, including: ‘Steering wasn’t issued till late October, and we expressed our issues about this to the Authorities.’
When introduced with the findings of our investigation, a Division of Well being and Social Care spokesperson stated: ‘There isn’t a nationwide scarcity of the flu vaccine and provisional knowledge exhibits 72.9 per cent of over 65s having been vaccinated to this point this yr.
‘Our first precedence has been to make it possible for these most vulnerable to flu are vaccinated, together with well being and social care staff.’
And the Royal School of Normal Practitioners, the skilled membership physique for GPs within the UK stated they have been ‘not conscious of any provide points’. But GPs talking to this newspaper instructed a unique story.
In line with Workplace for Nationwide Statistics knowledge, there have nonetheless been greater than 3,000 deaths attributed to flu and pneumonia since September (file picture)
One apply in Wales instructed The Mail on Sunday they’d not offer any extra jabs till the top of November, even for the at-risk and aged. One other, in Birmingham, stated they have been nonetheless making their method by way of the over-65s and have been ‘nowhere close to prepared’ to start vaccinating the 50-to-64 age group.
And readers, who continued to contact us all through the week, instructed us in regards to the chaos and confusion they’ve skilled.
David Keenan, 75, from Canvey Island, Essex, suffers from coronary illness and has three stents in his coronary heart. ‘In line with the Authorities, I’m clinically susceptible,’ he wrote. ‘I contacted our GP surgical procedure thrice concerning the flu vaccine, and every time they knowledgeable me they have been ready to obtain it and they might ring when that occurred. To date no contact has been made. Native pharmacies say they’ve used the inventory that they had and are ready for provides.’
One couple, 68 and 69, from Birmingham, who requested to stay nameless, have been shielding since March as a consequence of underlying well being circumstances and have been making an attempt since September to get their flu jabs.
They stated: ‘We’ve referred to as our GP each week solely to be instructed they don’t have the vaccine but and don’t know when they may.
‘As a back-up we determined to strategy our native pharmacy, as they provide flu jabs. In addition they instructed us they didn’t have the vaccine and didn’t know after they would.’
Readers have been left terrified by warnings of the possibly lethal penalties of catching flu and Covid on the similar time (file picture)
Many instructed us they’ve been desperately making an attempt to get a jab for aged mother and father, to no avail.
Jane Sharman, from Longfield, Kent, says her father, an 86-year-old dementia affected person, ‘has not obtained a flu jab or letter to ask him to attend the surgical procedure’.
In frustration, she contacted the native pharmacist to attempt to pay for a jab privately, however was instructed they have been additionally out of inventory. ‘We’re nonetheless ready,’ she added.
Amid the heightened demand, many individuals below the age of 65 who would in earlier years have certified for a jab on the NHS as a consequence of pre-existing well being circumstances have been instructed – wrongly – they can’t have one this yr.
Denise Murton, 63, from Heacham in Norfolk, has coronary coronary heart illness which places her at excessive danger from flu, however has been instructed by her pharmacist she should wait till everybody over 65 has obtained one.
Equally, in a break from the same old process for flu jabs, these unable to go away the home can not ebook house visits.
Rita Taylor, 85, from Hedon, Yorkshire, says she has been making an attempt to rearrange a house go to for her 89-year-old husband, who’s motionless, for weeks. ‘Final Thursday afternoon I spent virtually two hours making an attempt to get by way of to the surgical procedure on the cellphone. It’s all the time a protracted course of however that could be a file for me. ‘Finally a receptionist answered and I stated I wished to rearrange a house go to for the flu injection. Her response was, “Oh we’ve completed doing these. You must come to the surgical procedure now.”
‘I defined that my husband can not do this. He spent 5 weeks in hospital through the summer time with again issues which turned out to be as a consequence of two damaged vertebrae and a disintegrating backbone. He can not stroll various yards and is unable to bend his physique sufficient to get right into a automotive.
We’ve obtained studies of sufferers as previous as 87 nonetheless ready for a jab, whereas others who’re at excessive danger of extreme flu additionally haven’t been in a position to get vaccinated (file picture)
‘The receptionist stated, “In order that’s simply you [to have the jab] then… are you able to are available in on Saturday?” ’
Caroline Silver, whose mom turned 100 final week, stated docs instructed her she must get her mom within the automotive and drive her to the surgical procedure if she wished a jab.
‘I stated we couldn’t get her within the automotive, in order that they put her on the district nurses’ listing. That was over a month in the past. I’d fortunately pay somebody to get her vaccinated. There appears to be nothing I can do, as there is no such thing as a vaccine obtainable outdoors the NHS both.’
However there may be some hope for the approaching months.
Because of the brand new inventory now arriving, Sanofi’s Hugo Fry stated he was hopeful these to this point unable to entry a jab would be capable to get one by the top of December.
‘GPs can begin taking orders for this new inventory now and people orders ought to begin to be obtained subsequent week. There’s nonetheless loads of time to get a jab.’
Nevertheless many should not so optimistic. ‘It’s been a shambles’ stated a reader from Norfolk. One other added: ‘Goodness solely is aware of how they may address the Covid-19 vaccine’.