High-risk patients will get flu vaccine

REASSURANCE that there are flu vaccines available to those most at risk from the flu virus came from NHS Hertfordshire this week, after surgeries and pharmacies in the district began reporting that they had run out of the vaccine.

Supplies of the flu vaccine are low throughout the county but NHS Hertfordshire have said they are confident that those who need the vaccine will get it although doctors’ surgeries and pharmacists have been informing patients there is no vaccine left and they are struggling to get it from their suppliers.

Davenport House Surgery in Harpenden notified its patients that there were no vaccines left last Thursday, January 6, when a sign went up on its door telling them that pharmaceutical companies and local chemists were unable to supply flu vaccinations at the present time.

The surgery told patients it would be happy to write prescriptions for patients to obtain the vaccine from pharmacies outside of Harpenden and advised them to contact the surgery once they had it, so that they could administer the vaccine.

On Tuesday, January 10, the surgery informed patients that supplies of the swine flu vaccine were expected in the next few days, although it would only be offered to those patients who were most at risk. The surgery also posted that it was no longer offering patients prescriptions for the vaccine.

Many pharmacies in St Albans say that they have no vaccine and that their wholesalers have none to sell them.

NHS Hertfordshire was not able to confirm whether Harpenden or St Albans had run out of the vaccine but a spokesperson said they wanted to reassure those patients most vulnerable to the virus that they could still get the vaccine if they contacted their GP.

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Heather Gray, head of pharmacy and medicines management at NHS Hertfordshire, said: “Working with GPs and community pharmacists, we are doing all that we can to make sure that we have supplies in the places that they are needed so that those patients in the at-risk group can receive the vaccine.

“We have identified those practices whose stocks are low and we are helping them obtain supplies from other practices and advising them of the regulations they need to follow if they transfer vaccines.”

Ms Gray said that GPs were now able to offer patients deemed ‘at risk’ the H1N1 vaccine – the swine flu vaccine – if they didn’t have sufficient supplies of the seasonal flu vaccine.

She added: “This is an important development as H1N1 is the predominant strain currently and the one that is causing the vast majority of serious complications that a few patients are experiencing.”

Those most at risk, who include those aged 65 and over, pregnant women, those with serious medical conditions, those living in a residential or nursing home, and anybody who is the main carer for an elderly or disabled person, is encouraged to contact their GP to get the vaccine.

Children with serious medical conditions are also being offered the vaccine, though parents are urged to discuss the issue with their GP beforehand.