The delivery of flu vaccines in the UK are facing a potentially catastrophic delay due to a shortage of HGV drivers. Seqirus, one of the world’s largest flu vaccine companies, said it had told customers about delays of up to a two weeks. Speaking on BBC Breakfast this morning, one doctor underscored the seriousness of this delay.
“In the short-term we will have to reschedule, this will have serious implications,” warned doctor Sakthi Karunanithi, Director of Public Health for Lancashire.
“This could potentially be very serious if this issue continues.”
When doctor Karunanithi was asked what this will mean in practice, he explained that NHS England is responsible for coordinating and commissioning the vaccination programme.
“Appointments will have to be rescheduled,” he said.
He continued: “But the more we delay, the wider the implications. Especially as we want to get more people vaccinated this year and we have expanded the cohorts.”
Flu jab delay – what we know so far
Seqirus, which is responsible for much of the world’s vaccine supply, said it had told customers about delays of up to a fortnight.
The company said it was “working hard to resolve the delay”.
The company, which is one of a number of suppliers, said customers would be able to reschedule their flu vaccination clinics.
Commenting on the delay, doctor Nighat Arif told BBC Breakfast that it places “huge pressure” on the back office.
It will have wider implications across the sector, hitting pharmacist’s, nurses and midwives, all of whom need to vaccinate their patients, she said.
There was already a crippling backlog, warned Doctor Nighat.
“We feel like we are firefighting and this has just added to that.”
This compounds existing shortages, such as difficulty getting blood bottles, said Doctor Nighat.
It has been reported that Becton Dickinson (BD) – which makes blood test vials for the NHS – is ramping up imports to try to address the serious shortages of test tubes.
The firm told the BBC it has received “exceptional use authorisation” from UK authorities to import blood tubes that are already approved for use in other countries, such as the US.
BD said it has increased production capacity in the UK by 20 percent.
Doctors have been told to stop most blood tests until 17 September, while hospitals have had to cut the total number of blood tests by a quarter.
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “We have secured tens of millions of additional blood tubes, including importing additional supplies from the EU and the US, which will be available to the NHS soon and there continues to be stock in place to ensure clinically urgent testing continues.
“Patient safety is always the top priority and we continue to work closely with NHS England, the devolved administrations, and the NHS to minimise any impact on patient care.”