contract in focus: year two
Thousands of practices face a
November start to the flu campaign as delays in vaccine delivery look set to wipe out October's clinics, the Health Protection Agency warns.
The full extent of the looming disruption to flu clinics became clear this week, with GPs who have ordered from Glaxo- SmithKline likely to be worst affected.
The HPA this week warned in a bulletin: 'The Department of Health is aware that some vaccine suppliers have delayed delivery dates, some by as much as two to four weeks. Affected practices may therefore be unable to offer vaccine during October.'
GSK told Pulse it was facing delays of four weeks on all its deliveries throughout the flu campaign contradicting assertions from the depart-
ment that only September deliveries would be badly affected.
Sanofi Pasteur MSD said deliveries would be delayed by up to four weeks, and Wyeth, Solvay and Chiron also reported delays (see above).
Dr Douglas Fleming, director of the RCGP Birmingham research unit, said the delays could cause problems for GPs who had hired additional nursing staff to administer vaccines. He added: 'Flu does appear most winters and while we've been used to flu not appearing until winter, it is possible it could happen earlier.'
Dr John Canning, Cleveland LMC secretary and a GP in Middlesbrough, said the whole vaccine supply system was in 'absolute chaos'.
He added: 'We have had loads of problems with children's vaccines and now we have problems with flu vaccine and it does look as if the system isn't working.'
He said the delays presented practical problems for GPs who liked to get vaccinations done early as their practices got busier later in the year.
The department plans to extend vaccine uptake monitoring 'to include vaccines given in 2006', after being warned by immunisation coordinators that delays could hit uptake.
But Dr David Baxter, immunisation co-ordinator for Stockport and a consultant in communicable diseases, said GPs were now so well organised that they would be able to cope with a more compressed flu campaign.
The European Vaccine Manufacturers warned earlier in the month that there would be production delays of three to four weeks because of late delivery of one of the three viral seed strains chosen by the World Health Organisation.
Delays in flu vaccine deliveries
GSK four-week delay on all deliveries
Wyeth two- to four-week delay on deliveries due to Chiron supplies situation
Chiron early deliveries could have delays of up to two weeks
Sanofi Pasteur MSD delays of up to four weeks on all deliveries
Solvay two-week delay on all deliveries
By Daile Pepper