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Flu communications strategy has left me cold

Short-term boost

In every weekly news meeting, I’ve been imploring the team to find out the latest on the flu vaccination programme. After all, it will be the biggest in history and if coadministration with the Covid vaccine goes ahead, the implications for logistics will be huge.

Yet we are now in September and there is still uncertainty. First, we don’t even know if a Covid booster campaign is going ahead – and recent reports are suggesting it is less likely.  Yet GPs are having to decide what to do about flu vaccines (and the problems around supplies don’t help).

But in this case, we can’t blame the authorities for the uncertainty. I think it is right that they had been aiming for coadministration (so long as practices who aren’t part of the Covid vaccination programme don’t miss out.)  

However, what ministers and the NHS can do is take ownership of this. Because the drive to coadminister has had an effect on GPs’ planning for the flu vaccination service. They can be the ones telling patients the situation, why they might get flu jabs late, or might need to come in for separate flu and Covid jabs. The Prime Minister seems to have given up on the televised Covid briefings, which would be a perfect way of communicating this to the public.

Instead, it seems as though it will be left to GPs to communicate with their patients. But the GP-patient relationship has been tested in recent months. The drip drip of stories about general practice being closed has become the mainstream narrative and some patients will no doubt mean that delays around flu (as well as the blood test fiasco) will be blamed on GPs by some.

As I argued last week, health managers haven’t stood up for GPs as much as they could have done. But it doesn’t need to be like this. The pandemic has changed healthcare in so many ways, whether it is remote consultations or vaccinations, and it shouldn’t be up to GPs to have to make this case.

Jaimie Kaffash is editor of Pulse. Follow him on Twitter @jkaffash or email him at


Vinci Ho 9 September, 2021 9:42 am

The travesty lies where :
(1) Everyone , deep down , was conscious that Covid 19 has drastically changed our lives on earth in just 18 months . The ‘new normal’ has been the common narrative for a while but it begs the question , do we really understand and accept the reality ? Or the temptation of chasing after the ‘old world’ remains obstinate?
(2) As this longing for the old world continues , the expectation and demand of ‘back to normal’ persist but instead , we are ‘back to future’. The condemnation and smearing of GPs of not opening and not seeing patients face to face enough , epitomised this ‘those were the days’ mentality . Reality is a different story .
(3) Reality is GPs are sucking up all the workload left behind in the system and community plus delivering 75% Covid vaccination, as the government is very keen on more . As my honourable LMC secretary put , he had not heard any vaccination being given by remote access😳 , the logical argument is every Covid vaccination (plus flu now) is a face to face consultation😑.Remember the Pinnacle system adopted requires a list of questions as history taking before the actual jabbing . Then there is also 15 minutes of actual patient observation. The GPs involved , so often , had to attend immediately patients feeling unwell shortly after the vaccination. I certainly had many experiences of this kind . So my question is simple , if you want GPs to deliver more vaccinations , you have to cut us slack on ‘face to face from the old world’ because you just cannot have it all .
(4) The potential differences in opinion between JCVI and politicians are stark and the poor CMO is now the person in the limelight to call it , whether it is vaccinating all 12 years and above or third doses. Co-administration could be potentially a logistical nightmare, given the track record of the NHSE/I in deliveries.
(5) The likelihood is GPs still have to vaccinate at least some patients separately for flu and Covid boosters . Or else, some patients ended up having their flu vaccines in pharmacies and asking Covid booster from GPs . Once again , a mess .

Patrufini Duffy 9 September, 2021 10:40 pm

So rightly said about everything: “…it doesn’t need to be like this”.

Sam Macphie 9 September, 2021 11:31 pm

Yes, vaccinations are important. Other things like social distancing are important still too.
Large events, like Hull Fair, one of the biggest funfairs in Europe due to take place next month, will be a potentially very dangerous Superspreader event; this in a city that has one of the highest rates of covid infection in the UK and a number of non-immunised people in the city. This is an extremely serious Public Health issue that needs dealing with now, while there is time to cancel this huge event, (last year it was cancelled). Although this is an open-air event in the main, people will be very closely packed together as you can imagine, while walking around or on rides.
Will someone in Public Health cancel the Hull Fair this year? Or will the population be made to put up with the aftermath of the event for a long time after, including more covid admissions, extra deaths and long-covid disease?