GPs in Northern Ireland will be able to restart flu clinics after having to cancel them following a shortage of the vaccine for under-65s.
The NI Public Health Agency said in a statement yesterday that ‘the outstanding deliveries of vaccine for the under-65s have arrived into Northern Ireland’.
All under-65s flu clinics were paused almost one month ago, following an announcement from the PHA.
However, yesterday’s PHA announcement said the vaccine was always expected to arrive in batches.
The BMA NI welcomed the news clinics can now restart, however added that it would cause logistical problems for GPs who would normally have completed clinics by now.
PHA head of health protection Dr Gerry Waldron said he could ‘confirm that the outstanding deliveries of vaccine for the under-65s have arrived into Northern Ireland as scheduled so we want to emphasise that there is no shortage for this group’.
He added: ‘The supplies are being checked and will be available for GPs to order soon, and they will be able to organise their clinics well in advance of the flu season, as was planned.
‘It was always anticipated that stock would arrive in planned batches, and with the initial batch of vaccine for under-65s used up extremely quickly, the decision to pause was purely practical, as it was simply not possible to continue to vaccinate until the next planned tranche of vaccine became available.’
Dr Alan Stout, BMA NI GP committee chair said: ‘GPs across Northern Ireland will be delighted to hear the news this afternoon from the PHA that the remainder of the flu vaccine has now arrived in Northern Ireland.’
But he added: ‘We were ready to carry out the vaccination programme but simply did not have the supplies to do so. We would like to apologise to all the patients who have had appointments cancelled or delayed and to all the practices who have worked so hard to arrange clinics only to have to cancel them at short notice.
‘This news coming in the middle of November causes huge logistical and organisational challenges to practices who would normally have completed their flu clinics by now. We can assure our patients that GP’s will continue to work exceptionally hard to deliver this and we will be seeking all available help from the PHA and the Department of Health to do so. Patients should wait to hear from their GP as to the date of any re-scheduled appointment.’
Also speaking on Monday, health minister Robin Swann told the NI Assembly: ‘As was outlined by the Public Health Agency last month, uptake has been exceptional with higher numbers of people getting the vaccine than ever before. A temporary pause was placed on some aspects of the seasonal flu vaccination programme but those additional vaccines are now available.’
He said all vaccine orders have now been delivered to Northern Ireland except around 30,000 doses of the childhood vaccine ‘which are still to be delivered and that is the only order that remains outstanding’.