Elderly people wanting flu jabs may be facing up to a six week wait because pharmacists and GPs in some parts of Kettering and Corby are facing a gap in supply.
The NHS has recently launched a campaign to encourage over-65s to get the jab which it says will help prevent three types of flu this winter. The adjuvanted trivalent injected vaccine for older people is different from the vaccine being offered to pregnant women and children.
But this vaccine is only offered by a single supplier, and some health providers in Northamptonshire have already run out of their first batch.
Boots in Kettering had no appointments available until November 20 when our reporter tried to book.
The branch of Boots in Corby Urgent Care Centre had no vaccines available until November 5 although the town centre store had vaccination appointments on October 26.
When we looked for appointments in other parts of the country, we were able to find appointments as early as tomorrow (Saturday) in Newcastle, Preston, London, Manchester and Leeds.
One 76-year-old woman who contacted the Northants Telegraph said: “I’ve got a chronic lung condition and it’s really important that I get my flu jab soon.
“If I get ill then it could mean I’m inside for the rest of the winter. I’ve already had to spend most of the summer inside because the heat has irritated my condition.
“I tried to get an appointment at the doctor’s surgery but they couldn’t get me in until the end of November. Neither could Boots or the Co-op pharmacy.
“It’ll be the middle of the winter by then and lots of people will already have had the flu.
“I keep seeing the adverts but it’s no good if I can’t get an appointment.”
An elderly man from Corby, who had turned up for a flu surgery at his GP practice, said he had been turned away at the door and told to rebook.
A spokesman for Corby and Nene CCGs said: “For the first time this year, the guidance is that people aged over 65 should only be offered a particular version of the flu vaccine, because it is more effective for them.
“There is only one manufacturer of this vaccine and delivery of it is being co-ordinated nationally. Practices and pharmacies are receiving it in phases – 40 per cent in September, 20 per cent in October and 40 per cent in late October/early November.
“This means that not everyone aged 65+ can get their flu vaccine as early in the autumn as previously. However, enough vaccines are being produced and there is plenty of time for people to be protected ahead of winter.
“Patients wanting a flu jab should keep in touch with their GP practice or local pharmacy so they can be booked in for their vaccination at the earliest opportunity.”
A Boots spokeswoman said that there was no shortage of the jab, but that it was being rolled out in stages so people should wait for their next appointment to become available.
Yesterday (Thursday), Northamptonshire County Council and Corby and Nene CCGs sent out a press statement urging people to get their flu vaccines booked in.
They said Much of the ill health caused by flu can be avoided by receiving a flu jab and that having the vaccination can reduce the chances of getting flu and complications by 70 per cent. It also reduces the risk of death from flu in vulnerable people by 80 per cent.
Cllr Cecile Irving-Swift, portfolio holder for public health at Northamptonshire County Council said: “Flu impacts on both those who become ill, and on the NHS services that provide direct care. It is really important that people have a flu vaccination to protect both themselves and others.”
Director of Public Health Lucy Wightman said: “Last year GP practices across Northamptonshire issued 134,900 free vaccinations to people in at risk target groups but a further 40 per cent (89,250) who were eligible in different groups, did not receive a vaccination.”
In 2018/19 the those eligible for a free flu vaccination are children aged two to nine, those aged six months to 64 years in clinical risk groups, pregnant women, over 65s, those in long-stay residential care homes, cares and frontline NHS or care home staff.
For more information on the flu vaccination, click here