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Flu Jab Q&As

by Dr Mark Howcutt – 6th October 2020
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Flu vaccination clinics 2020 – some questions answered

We are currently very busy providing flu jabs to those patients who are at high risk, have already booked an appointment and for whom we have supplies. We know there remains some anxiety about other patients getting their flu jabs and we hope the answers below will help.

"Why can I not book into a flu jab clinic at the moment?"
We have fully booked clinics for all the supply of flu vaccine we currently have. We have been prioritising patients based on clinical need (not just age). We are adding extra clinics and actively calling patients at high risk to invite them in for a flu jab when we have jabs available. Unfortunately, we cannot book any more patients in for a flu jab at the moment.

"But do you have more flu jabs coming?"
We have to order our flu vaccinations 9 to 12 months ahead (in fact, we are now already considering next year's order). This means we had to place our order before the pandemic.

Two things have happened since we ordered our flu jabs because of the pandemic. First, the Government decided to nearly double the number of people eligible for flu vaccination; and secondly, many people who do not normally choose to have the flu jab have decided to take up the offer this year due to concern around COVID.

Our orders are delivered in batches. We do have more flu jabs coming but we cannot be sure when they will arrive and whether they will be the full amount we ordered. Some organisations have had their orders cut by the suppliers or delivery dates changed without warning. So until we know exactly when and how many vaccines we have, we cannot take more bookings.

"But can't you just get more now?"
No. When the Government decided it would expand who could get a flu jab this year, they also bought all the remaining available supply of flu vaccines in the country. We understand they will be released to us to use later in the year. We believe this will be November or December but we have had no detailed information from the Government or the NHS as to when and how that might happen.

"So, can't I go to the pharmacy instead?"
We are happy for our patients to have their vaccination given at one of our local community pharmacists. Unfortunately, they have the same problems we do. On 25th September, we were told that none of the local pharmacies had vaccine available for patients who had not already booked with them and that they had also stopped taking bookings – although we understand some have restarted following deliveries.

"What am I going to do, then?"
Please be patient. We will be getting more supplies and we will be doing our best to prioritise those most at risk. We believe we will also have some of the Government stocks released to us later in the year. We will do our best to keep patients informed.

"Can I not go on a waiting list?"
We feel it is important that patients who are in higher-risk groups are vaccinated first, not just first-come-first-served so we will not be holding a waiting list. We will be contacting patients in these higher-risk groups first when we have more vaccine.

"Have you not planned this properly?!"
We wish we didn't have these difficulties and are sorry for the worry it has caused some patients. We have worked really hard to try to get this right. Some days, we have had hundreds of patients ringing trying to get booked in – an unprecedented demand. We ordered our flu jabs in the usual way and we have tried to obtain more supplies but been unable. We have liaised with our pharmacy colleagues and have raised concerns both locally with the Clinical Commissioning Group and nationally with the NHS. We will continue to do all we can to ensure those patients who need the flu vaccine can obtain it.

"So in view of all this, how are you doing so far?"
Thanks to our planning and earlier delivery of some vaccine, we were able to start our vaccination programme much earlier than usual. Normally, we would only be starting to vaccinate in October but this year by the end of September, we had already vaccinated over 500 patients including most of the patients who were shielding earlier in the year as very high risk of COVID-19. It has not been easy for us or for our patients, but we are making good progress.

Dr Matk Howcutt
Haddenham Medical Centre

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