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GPs are facing an influx of MMR vaccine from Germany that is unlicensed and cannot be given under patient group directions.

Using the new vaccine will require GPs to write individual prescriptions or sign patient-specific directions for their practice nurses.

The Medical Defence Union is warning that GPs will have to inform all patients that the vaccine is unlicensed.

Pulse understands that the new vaccine accounts for a 'significant' proportion of stocks. It has been sourced in response to continuing pressures over vaccine supplies with the UK in the grip of a mumps epidemic.

Many GPs have still to re-start catch-up campaigns for MMR because of the supply problems and industry insiders suggest stocks could remain tight until the end of the year.

The Department of Health sent a letter to immunisation co-ordinators on May 13 stating that it had sourced

new supplies from Germany, but they could not be given under patient group directions.

The vaccine, called Triplovax, is exactly the same as the MMR II vaccine used in this country but does not hold a UK product licence.

LMCs told Pulse that GPs had raised concerns about giving the unlicensed vaccine.

David Noblett, lay secretary for North-West LMCs, said: 'There's an apprehension from GPs about use of the vaccine. It's unlicensed so it's not just the work involved in the patient group directions.'

Amanda Grant, nurse practitioner for health protection in primary care in South Birmingham, said: 'There will be GPs in our area who will be unhappy about giving it. PCTs will have to look at this. We haven't enough MMR. Practices can order 50 a week and any more than that has to be authorised by the department. We're advising GPs that child immunisations come first.'

Dr Harry Yoxall, secretary of Somerset LMC and a GP in Taunton, said catch-up campaigns had not restarted in his area and the German vaccine created a 'technical problem'.

By Emma Wilkinson

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