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Letter of the week: It’s not GPs who have been incompetent over flu vaccines

I couldn't believe the outrageous statement of Professor Hugh Pennington, suggesting that GPs had been incompetent in our management of the flu season.

It demonstrates his extreme ignorance of the whole area and suggests that he has not been living in the UK for the past two years. The idea that giving the job to another agency would solve the problem is naive in the extreme.

The demand for flu vaccines has been very closely related to media coverage on the subject which has, in turn, been linked to the incidence of flu in the population and the severe complications reported. It was predictable that swine flu would be a problem this winter – the only issue was the timing. GPs have been trying to get our populations vaccinated since early October, but many patients have not been persuaded of the need for vaccination after the fiasco of the mixed messages in the media in the summer of 2009.

We need a well-planned and executed programme of national public education each autumn giving clear guidance for the public so vaccination is not left too late. This will have a much greater effect on uptake than letters from practices, which are often ignored. Locally, we have not run out of vaccine as we have planned carefully. I am sure this is true for most of the country, but recently panic has set in as deaths have been reported. The general public are shocked that people die of flu, even if health professionals have known this for years.

From Dr Julie Barker
Newark, Nottinghamshire

A good education programme is needed to give clear advice to patients