Some GPs have raised concerns that they have yet to receive stocks of flu vaccine for high-risk patients under 65.
Delayed deliveries have left some practices having to cancel fully booked clinics and face a high volume of requests from worried patients.
The RCGP said they were hearing reports that supply of vaccine was not meeting demand and it was important that patients understood that GPs were not ‘rationing’ vaccine.
It follows an acknowledgment earlier in September from Seqirus that some deliveries had been delayed amid high demand but were on their way.
In July, Pulse exclusively reported that Sanofi – which supplies vaccines for under 65s and at-risk groups – said it would not deliver 30% of the stock ordered by pharmacies and surgeries until the week commencing 9 November.
RCGP chair Professor Martin Marshall said pharmacies seemed to be struggling the most to get supplies at the moment.
Some independent pharmacies in England have warned they had run out of vaccine only a month into the season as they face unprecedented demand, as Pulse sister title the Pharmacist reports.
It comes after the Government announced an expanded flu vaccine campaign in response to Covid-19 with 30 million people eligible.
‘We have asked the Government for reassurance that there is enough vaccine supply to go round and for government guidance on prioritisation if the shortages turn out to be more widespread,’ said Professor Marshall.
‘GPs plan meticulously and well in advance for the annual flu programme every year, but the additional cohort of year 11 school children and over 50s were included in this year’s programme, at a fairly late stage, so GPs are working hard to ensure that priority is given to those in the traditional ‘at risk’ groups, such as the elderly, those with pre-existing health problems like asthma and pregnant women.’
He added: ‘GPs are not rationing flu jabs but rather prioritising patients most in urgent need.’
Dr Alan McCubbin, chair of Newcastle and North Tyneside LMC, said vaccine supplies in the different categories were coming through to GP surgeries and local community pharmacies in fits and starts.
‘Some sites have received significant amounts of vaccines, some have yet to receive any,’ he added.
PCNs locally had set up a number of initiatives at PCN level to ‘loan’ vaccines between practices who have received theirs to those which haven’t had any yet to ‘enable rapid vaccination of high risk groups like the housebound elderly and care home residents’, he added.
GPs in Bradford said they were expecting some supplies to be delivered later this week but Dr Jamie Wallis a GP in Lambeth, London said they had been told it would be another couple of weeks for the under 65 vaccinations to arrive.
Dr Emma Nash, a GP in Fareham in Hampshire said she was hoping the under 65s vaccine would arrive soon but they had not been given a date.
‘I can’t remember there being an issue with delivery before, but then demand this year is exceptional,’ she added.
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: ‘There is no national shortage of the flu vaccine, with enough doses for 30m people to be vaccinated in England. It is completely wrong to suggest otherwise.
‘The vaccine is already being delivered for those in at-risk groups, including the over-65s and this will continue throughout the winter months, so there is still time for those eligible people to get their vaccinations.’
Additional reporting by Eleanor Philpotts