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The waiting game


GPs are boycotting use of unlicensed German and US MMR vaccines in protest at the failure of the Department of Health or PCTs to provide indemnity.

One LMC reported that GPs in the area had dumped unlicensed vaccines back at their PCT and demanded licensed vaccines in return.

The chaos came as an estimated 120,000 new students were expected to come forward for vaccination before the start of the university year.

The department insisted new stocks of licensed vaccine were now available and that there should be no need to give the unlicensed supplies.

But it reiterated that any GPs who gave the unlicensed vaccines would do so at their own risk.

LMCs contacted by Pulse were unaware of the new supplies with some reporting that supplies of licensed vaccines had run out.

'Some GPs have been stuck with no other supplies at all because they have completely run out of the UK version,' said Kent LMC clerk David Barr. He said some GPs faced losing income because they were unable to hit vaccination targets.

Dr Dermot Ryan, a GP

in Loughborough, Leicestershire, said the continued inaction by the Government had left GPs feeling bullied into taking a risk the Government itself refused to take. 'The vast majority of practices in our PCT are unwilling to administer the unlicensed vaccine,' Dr Ryan said.

Dr James Gillgrass, chief executive of Surrey and Sussex LMC and a GP in Croydon, said: 'Some practices have returned the unlicensed vaccine and asked for licensed vaccine to replace it.

'They said they will do it when the licensed vaccine is available.'

But GPs said some practices had decided the public health implications of not giving MMR were sufficiently severe to outweigh the legal problems.

They strongly criticised the Government for endangering public health and said the vaccine supply system in general was in chaos.

Dr Brian Balmer, South and North Essex LMC chief executive, said: 'It is scandalous the way the department deals with public health.'

Central North and South Liverpool PCTs have agreed to indemnify GPs for using the unlicensed vaccine to prevent the programme being interrupted.

How crisis grew over supplies of MMR vaccine

April 2005

·MMR supply crisis grips the NHS as the Department of Health warns supplies are 'extremely low'

May-June 2005

·Department sources stocks from Germany and then US, but admits they are unlicensed in the UK

July 2005

·Government refuses requests to indemnify GPs, stating they should use the unlicensed vaccine 'on their own direct responsibility'

August 2005

·GPs boycot the unlicensed vaccine

and return supplies

·Department insists stocks of licensed UK vaccine have been replenished, but many GPs remain unaware

By Daile Pepper

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