Practices in Northern Ireland have been told to cease giving flu vaccines to patients under 65s because of “phenomenal” demand.
Practices have been running clinics in church halls, community centres and car parks to comply with the government plan to extend the vaccination campaign this year. In common with other parts of the UK, the region has now found stocks running low. The region’s Public Health Agency said more than half a million doses have so far been distributed.
Its head Dr Gerry Waldron said: “We have distributed more vaccines in the past few weeks than the entirety of previous flu seasons. Demand for the flu vaccine this year has been phenomenal, and we are pleased that people have acted on the call to get it to help protect themselves and their loved ones. Flu alone can be a dangerous illness, but with coronavirus also in circulation this year, it is even more important for key groups to get vaccinated.”
Dr Waldron added: “This will result in a temporary pause in the supply of vaccine for eligible people under 65, and additional controls for the distribution of the other flu vaccines, until we receive further stock. It is great to see people getting the vaccine in such high numbers, but it does create the unusual situation of pausing some aspects until further supplies become available.”
Royal College of GPs regional chair Dr Laurence Dorman said practices were “incredibly frustrated and disappointed.” He said: “Our colleagues have set up safe clinics in church halls, community centres and car parks, providing drive-through options for vulnerable patients and delivering a significant number of vaccines to patients while adhering to public health guidance. Many of these clinics were performed on Saturdays and on weekday evenings, highlighting the dedication and flexibility of our staff.
“After such intense preparation and planning, GPs have been left exasperated due to factors that are outside of their control. GPs have voiced concerns about supply problems before and during their flu clinic planning stages, based on supply having been an issue in previous years. We were given assurances there would be no supply issues and so organised the flu campaign with this in mind.”