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Practices cancel thousands of flu vaccine appointments after delays to supplies

by Jess Hacker
6 September 2021

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Practices have begun cancelling thousands of flu vaccine appointments after a delay of up to two weeks on deliveries of flu vaccine stock, Management in Practice has been told.

In an email to customers delivered Friday (3 September), manufacturer Seqirus warned practice managers that there will be a delay to scheduled deliveries by one to two weeks due to ‘unforeseen road freight challenges’.

Practices will now be contacted seven days ahead of their delivery to inform them of their new, actual delivery date, with an estimated delivery time confirmed with 48 hours’ notice, Seqirus said.

‘We realise that this unfortunate change could require you to reschedule planned influenza vaccination clinics and would like to reassure you that we are working hard to allow you to plan with certainty,’ it said.

A spokesperson from the Institute of General Practice Management (IGPM) told Management in Practice: ‘Many practice managers are now in the midst of cancelling 1,000s of patients that are already booked into clinics this week and forthcoming weeks. This is causing huge amounts of work for practice staff and many disappointed and anxious patients as these are sometimes the most vulnerable patients.’

They added that practices have been unable to contact Seqirus on the telephone, with some remaining ‘uncertain as to when their deliveries will happen, which makes planning impossible’.

This comes days after managers reported they were informed of immediate updates to the Covid vaccine campaign via our sister title Pulse, instead of through the appropriate NHS England channels.

The IGPM had said that the both the vaccine delay and imminent updates had created ‘additional challenges’ for an ‘exhausted workforce’.

A Seqirus spokesperson said: ‘Vaccine supplies are beginning to flow out across England and Wales and some practices and pharmacies will be able to begin their vaccination campaigns. We are working through various logistical issues and do not expect delays to extend beyond one to two weeks.’

Flu programme ‘cannot fail’

The 2021/22 flu programme is the second year the campaign has been opened to patients aged-50 and over – after it was initially extended during the Covid-19 pandemic – meaning that 36 million people are now eligible.

The Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) said that given the size of the cohort, ‘GPs need the supply chain to run like clockwork’, especially as they are still waiting for details of how the Covid booster campaign will be rolled out.

‘A delay of even a couple of weeks is going to have a big impact on practices and their patients, especially when GPs are already dealing with the fallout caused by the shortage of blood test bottles and the anxiety this is causing,’ Dr Gary Howsam, vice chair of the RCGP said.

Public confidence in vaccines is currently ‘running high’ as a result of the successful Covid campaign, he stated, adding that the NHS must not lose that confidence.

‘General practice and the entire NHS are dependent on the smooth roll-out of the winter flu vaccination programme. It cannot fail.’