LMCs have warned of vulnerable patients going without flu vaccines following a shortage caused by pharmaceutical company Crucell withdrawing its vaccines.
The company said it is holding all deliveries of its seasonal flu vaccines after its Viroflu and Inflexal vaccines received unexpected test results.
Derbyshire LMC secretary Dr John Grenville said it was a serious problem nationally, while in Derbyshire, ‘15 practices were affected to the tune of about 22,500 vaccine doses’.
Dr Grenville added: ‘The practices are working with the PCT cluster immunisation co-ordinator and with the LMC to see what we can do. The answer seems to be not a very great deal. Other suppliers have suggested they may be able to supply vaccine in due course, but they don’t yet know when.
He added: ‘Several flu clinics have had to be cancelled. Others are being cancelled and practices affected do not know when they will be able to get their programme going properly.
‘It has been recommended that if practices do get stocks, they should start off by targeting the frail elderly and pregnant women.’
Dr Grenville said the incident had ‘taken everyone by surprise’ to the extent that ‘there seems to be no plan B nationally’.
The DH usually has reserve stocks of vaccine, but Dr Grenville said: ‘We are told the DH does not have any spare stocks this season.’
Nottinghamshire LMC said in a statement: ‘We have been collating information from flu vaccine suppliers in light of the problems with Crucell being unable to deliver their customers’ orders. It now appears that none of the major six flu vaccine companies currently have any surplus stocks left. Pfizer and Abbott, who are approved LMC Buying Group suppliers, are now operating a waiting list policy until they are able to source more stock.’
Dr Ted Willis, a GP in Lincolnshire, said: ‘We only received about half our order from Masta who supply us with Imuvac. We have now run out and our next delivery date is October 29.
‘Our neighbouring practice has had none delivered so far about two weeks after they should have had vaccine delivered and we gather that some practices have been informed that their supplier will not be providing any vaccine.’
A statement from Crucell said: ‘Crucell is voluntarily holding all deliveries of our seasonal flu vaccine while we complete an investigation pertaining two batches. As always, our top priority is patient safety, and therefore, we will wait until we have final results on the product quality of these two batches before releasing any of the vaccines in the 2012/2013 flu campaign.’
A Department of Health spokesperson said: ‘We are aware of some unexpected delays to one supplier’s deliveries of the flu vaccine and advise GP practices to contact alternative suppliers if they are having problems.’