Two-thirds of young children have yet to be vaccinated against flu, as practices battle to immunise two and three- year olds before central stocks of vaccine expire in January.
The most recent weekly figures showed 34.1% of two-year-olds and 30.6% of three-year-olds had received influenza vaccine by 24 November.
The data show uptake has gone up around 10% since the end of October, when the monthly breakdown showed 22% and 20% of two- and three-year-olds overall had been vaccinated.
But LMCs said practices face an uphill battle to immunise children before central supplies run out after the 16 January – with some batches expiring in mid-December.
It comes as Public Health England revealed that a ‘small number’ of GP practices had yet to order any nasal vaccine at all and that NHS England would be in touch with them to make sure they have not ‘overlooked’ the scheme.
Public Health England said the uptake with the new programme was ‘encouraging, given the extra workload this has generated for primary care’.
It added: ‘It’s interesting to note that a small number of GP surgeries have yet to order any Fluenz vaccine. For some, this is because they have opted out of offering childhood immunisations, but for the others NHS England will be in contact to make sure they have not overlooked the fluvaccination programme for healthy two- and three- year olds.’
But LMC leaders expressed concerns about a lack of a national campaign to help GPs keep parents aware of the campaign – and how low uptake could impact on practices using up vaccine stocks that they are currently ordering in centrally from Public Health England.
Dr Paul Roblin, chair of Berkshire, Buckhingamshire and Oxfordshire LMCs, told Pulse: ‘I sent an email to practices about two weeks ago pointing out there was concern in the Thames Valley about low uptake – and that all the national vaccine stock will be out of shelf-life after Christmas.
‘But practices are inundated and the last thing they can do is chase parents who don’t want the vaccine.’
Dr Roblin added: ‘It is a worry that as vaccines expire, there could be a whole load of wasted stock. But I would expect the central procurement team to have sorted that out in advance – to have a financial arrangement if stock wasn’t used.
‘If parents don’t want it and there hasn’t been a national campaign then Public Health England and politicians should take responsibility for not making it clear what the recommendations were for parents of two- and three-year-olds.’
For clinical at-risk groups, the latest weekly figures are up slightly on last year with over 67% of people aged 65 and over, 44% of those under 65 in an at-risk group and 34% of pregnant women having been vaccinated – compared with 65%, 41% and 32% of each groups around the same time last year.