Health chiefs plea for patience as demand for flu jabs ramps up in Northamptonshire
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Health chiefs are urgently investigating why some people are struggling to get a flu jab in Northamptonshire.
And they have begged residents to remain patient to avoid swamping the system.
Doctors and government ministers are leading a rally cry urging people get jabs to avoid risks of a winter 'twindemic' as Covid-19 remains virulent alongside an expected increase in flu cases.
NHS Northamptonshire Clinical Commissioning Group insists that stocks are plentiful and GP surgeries are contacting all those eligible for a free NHS vaccination. Yet some of those desperate to get a jab are finding it far from easy.
■ One GP surgery has told patients flu vaccine delivery has been delayed.
■ A pharmacy has suspended bookings indefinitely and are "hoping" for another delivery in two weeks.
■ One woman in her late 60s gave up waiting for her GP to contact her and went to a High Street pharmacy instead — who postponed her appointment saying there was no vaccine available.
■ Another patient was turned away from her appointment because the pharmacy had run out of vaccine.
A CCG spokesperson said: “We are sorry to hear some people have experienced difficulties booking a flu vaccine, and we are currently looking into the reasons behind these difficulties.
"There is a regular supply of the flu vaccine coming into our county, so please be patient if you haven’t yet been able to book an appointment because there is enough vaccine for everyone who wants one.
“Flu is highly contagious and can cause serious health complications in older patients or those with underlying health conditions.
"Getting the jab will protect you and your loved ones from the virus, so if you’re invited please make sure you take up the offer of a free flu vaccine.”
Patients revealed they have been warned of problems by surgeries and pharmacies
One reader said: "I have just had my flu jab cancelled because there is no vaccine available.
"I have a new date of November 8 but have been told that might have to be cancelled again. Same for my husband and I know of others locally who have had appointments cancelled, too.
"As someone in their late-60s I am very worried. There's not much point the government telling us to get vaccinated and then our appointments being cancelled."
Patients at another village surgery received text messages this week saying: "Sorry to inform you our flu vaccine delivery has been delayed. We will contact you to book an appointment."
And a local pharmacy has a notice posted on its website warning flu jab bookings have been suspended "due to overwhelming demand."
It added: "We are hoping for more to be delivered in the next two weeks."
Another patient contacted this newspaper, saying: "I've had my vaccine booked at a chemists three times and had it cancelled three times — the last one didn’t even inform until we got there and they said they had run out."
Boots' five pharmacies in Northampton had just two online appointments available until November 1. Stores in Wellingborough and Corby do have plenty of slots but those in both Kettering and Daventry are showing nothing until mid-November.
Boots did not respond to requests for comment on the situation.
Doctors are expecting a surge in flu cases this winter as fewer people will have built up natural immunity during the Covid-19 pandemic. They also warn people are twice as likely to die if they catch catch flu and Covid-19 at the same time.
Pharmacy associations have warned of a postcode lottery in supply starting to emerge.
Alastair Buxton, director of NHS Services at the pharmaceutical services negotiating committee, admitted: “We are seeing some regional variation where stocks have run low and run out in some cases due to a surge in demand.”
Potential problems with supplies nationally were first flagged up last month when vaccine manufacturer Seqirus wrote to surgeries alerting them to the possibility of having to rearrange booked appointments.
The firm said: “Due to unforeseen road freight challenges, there will be a delay to your scheduled delivery.
“This unfortunate change could require you to reschedule planned influenza vaccination clinics and we are working hard to allow you to plan with certainty.”