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Study refutes flu vaccine slur

A new study has vigorously debunked Department of Health claims that GPs frittered away last winter's flu vaccine supplies on the worried well, writes Christian Duffin.

An analysis of records from 51,000 patients who received the flu vaccine found only 6 per cent did not fall within the Government's at-risk groups.

The proportion of vaccines going to patients not at risk actually fell from 7.4 per cent in the previous flu season ­ ridiculing suggestions that GPs had run out of vaccine because they had been increasingly careless over who they immunised.

The researchers instead concluded vaccine stocks were stretched by increased uptake in at-risk patients and the addition of carers and patients with liver disease to the at-risk groups.

They called for the Government to hold sufficient reserves of vaccine to cope with fluctuations in uptake.

Study leader Adrian Jubb, a medical student at the University of Leeds, said: 'The data indicates that the shortage was not due to increased vaccination of the worried well.

'This is a local study and

we have to be cautious about

applying it to the rest of the country ­ but it does look like the assumption GPs were giving out vaccines inappropriately was false.'

Dr Peter Calveley, a GP in Lincoln and NHS Alliance lead for care of older people, said: 'We knew there was no evidence behind the comments. They were naive and inflammatory.'

Dr Laurence Buckman, dep-uty chair of the GPC, demanded an apology from Dr David Salisbury, the department's head of immunisation, who was responsible for the accusations.

'I look forward to him apologising in public for the criticism of family doctors who work jolly hard to get help to people who need it,' said Dr Buckman.

But a spokesperson for Dr Salisbury said only that he was pleased uptake had increased.

The research, published as a letter in the British Journal of General Practice, examined records of vaccination at seven practices in Bradford.

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