By Lilian Anekwe
The Department of Health is considering creating a national stockpile of flu vaccine to avoid a repeat of the shortages seen during this winter's seasonal flu vaccination campaign.
The supply difficulties experienced by practices have prompted ministers to review flu vaccine procurement, in a move which could see GPs stripped of their role in flu vaccine ordering.
But Professor David Salisbury, the DH director of immunisation, admitted last week officials are considering going even further and reverting back to a system employed five years ago, when the DH held a central stockpile of vaccine in reserve in case supplies ever ran short.
‘It will be important if we can to understand why people were reporting shortages when there was the same amount of vaccine in the country as there has been in previous years,' he said. ‘In the past we have had a stockpile. It is a possibility but there's a considerable amount of work to do to try and come up with a defensible position.'
Professor Salisbury also indicated ordering could be devolved locally and done regionally, instead of by individual GP practices.
‘We are in a state of change at the moment. Next year I think is going to be a transition year and there may be a series of changes. There are a range of options, all of which have to be considered, and it may be that local options are also explored. Local ordering is a possibility but we have to explore how local local can be.'
Dr John Orchard, a GP in Alfreton, Derbyshire, said: ‘Let's give up the flu jab lottery. For years flu ordering has been a financial gamble - which we have lost as often as we have won. All necessary vaccines should be centrally supplied in sufficient numbers to meet the known needs. Any failure of uptake resulting in left over vaccine would be the Government's responsibility.'
The latest figures from the RCGP showed consultation rates for influenza-like illness fell from 108.4 to 66.5 per 100,000 over the past week, prompting the DH to cautiously suggest this winter's flu season may have passed its peak.DH considers national flu vaccine stockpile