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October's uptake of the influenza vaccine has plummeted in areas worst hit by vaccine shortages ­ although GPs in most areas have struggled to within a few per cent of last year's figures.

Early indications were that uptake had dropped by just 2 or 3 per cent in Somerset and Suffolk, which both suffered significant delays to vaccine supplies, but hard-hit Northern Ireland saw uptake in the first month of the campaign fall 12 points to 45 per cent.

In affected areas practices reported having to run weekend clinics to keep their flu campaigns on track. But in areas unaffected by loss of supplies from Chiron vaccine uptake was up several points.

The figures came as LMCs called for a boycott on reporting data on at-risk under-65s after GPs were hit by a surge in workload and bureaucracy.

GPs complained the information, requested by the Health Protection Agency, was not easily accessible from IT systems with many hit by computer glitches as they tried to retrieve age-specific data.

Stockport LMC urged GPs 'not to comply' with the Department of Health's request for data on at-risk under-65s, as GPs sometimes had to do '15 searches to get it'.

Dr Ruth Ruggles, consultant in communicable disease control at south-west London Health Protection Unit, said: 'If it's not an at-risk group in the quality and outcomes framework it's difficult for GPs to query it.'

Dr Hamed Maghoub, immunisation co-ordinator for Suffolk, said: 'Some practices are having to report totals without giving age bands.'

Catalogue of chaos

over flu campaign


·Flu campaign gets off to a rocky start as Chiron withdraws stocks of vaccine for quality assurance

·GPC demands compensation for lost uptake as MHRA suspends Chiron's licence


·GSK cancels orders for replacement vaccine after overselling stocks

·GPs urged to consider use of antivirals in wake of flu vaccine shortages

·Figures show fall in uptake as GPs are hit by workload chaos over Government requests for data

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