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Ballot delay threatens supply of flu vaccine

GPs have warned the delay in voting for the new contract could jeopardise the supply of influenza vaccine for at-risk under-65s.

GPs throughout the UK have ordered enough vaccine to cover the over-65s but many are awaiting the contract vote to see if they will be paid for immunising under-65s before ordering more vaccine.

Pharmaceutical companies have reported only a limited vaccine supply remains.

Dr Ian Dumbelton, out-going chair of Cambridgeshire LMC, said GPs would delay ordering more vaccine until the ballot and were concerned about adequate supplies for at-risk under-65s. Dr Dumbelton, a GP in St Neots, said: 'I can see there being a problem. Some GPs will be reticent to order any flu vaccine until they are sure they'll be getting paid.'

Paul Stevens, executive officer of Stockport LMC, said he had ordered around 130,000 doses of flu vaccine for over-65s in Greater Manchester. But he warned additional doses might have dried up by the time GPs vote on the contract.

He said: 'We are waiting to see what happens with the contract. If we are targeting the at-risk under-65s we would need to up the order.'

GlaxoSmithKline, a supplier of flu vaccine, said if there was a surge in demand the company would have to use doses intended for a pandemic. A spokeswoman said: 'We have a contingency plan in case of a pandemic. We are confident we can meet additional demand but we won't be able to take on all of it.'

A spokeswoman for Wyeth, another supplier, said it had made no plans to supply enough vaccine to cover at-risk under-65s.

Meanwhile, GPs in Wales were outraged they will continue to be paid just £4.70 for vaccinating at-risk under-65s. Their colleagues in Northern Ireland, Scotland and England, who ­ having failed to secure payment for the under-65s at risk in the past ­ will receive a payment of £6.80 if the contract goes ahead.

Dr Gareth Hayes, a GP in Cardiff and medical secretary of Bro Taf LMC, said the disparity was unfair, adding: 'I am not happy with it and will certainly be bringing it up with the GPC.'

GPC Wales chair Dr

Andrew Dearden said he had raised the issue with the

Welsh Assembly and there was still two or three months'

breathing space to improve the deal.

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