Socialist Worker

Winter flu vaccine crisis looms after years of Tory budget cuts and selloffs in NHS

by Tomáš Tengely-Evans
Issue No. 2628

A nurse administering a flu jab - but will there be enough to go around this winter?

A nurse administering a flu jab - but will there be enough to go around this winter? (Pic: NHS Employer/Flickr)


An east London GP has warned that elderly people could die this winter because of flu vaccine shortages.

Jackie from Tower Hamlets told Socialist Worker there was “total chaos” across GP surgeries. Her warning came as the NHS faces a winter crisis and flu variety even worse than last year.

“The winter crisis is already upon us,” she said.

“Ultimately, the worst possible scenario is that people die because they didn’t get the vaccine when they needed to.”

GP surgeries have been reporting a shortage of the new seasonal flu vaccines designed for people over 65 years old.

“In our surgery we don’t have any for over 65s,” said Jackie. “I know of GP practices in Hackney and the Lake District where people have turned up to get their vaccines and been told they’ve run out.

“And quite understandably patients have been angry at the GP practices, not NHS England management.”

NHS England and pharmaceuticals bosses have said there are enough supplies for over 65s to get vaccination this winter.

Yet an NHS England circular from 13 September showed that bosses were preparing for supply problems. “If limited aTIV stock is available those aged over 75 years and those aged 65 to 74 years with an underlying clinical risk factor should be prioritised,” it said.

Jackie said, “It’s something that we’ve been flagging up for months—people could see it coming.”

Manufacturer

There has been a phased roll-out of the new Adjuvanted Trivalent Vaccine (aTIV) from manufacturer Seqirus. The plan was for 40 percent to be delivered in September, 20 percent in October and 40 percent in November.

Jackie said, “We like to get the vaccines in batches at beginning of October and start administering them to people.

“It’s good to get them early, not wait until November.”

The NHS England circular said all over 65s “should be directed to the local pharmacy in the first instance”.

But Jackie said, “There will be a lot of people who are normally vaccinated in GP surgeries who won’t get it done this year,” she said.

“Some people aren’t organised enough to go out and ask for it. But when they come into the GP surgery for another reason, you can offer it to them and get it done.

“There are a lot of people like that.”

Flu vaccinations are provided by GP surgeries and since 2015 community pharmacies have been able to provide them to vulnerable adults. Regulations on pharmacies providing vaccinations were relaxed earlier this year.

The amount of money received for administering each vaccination has also gone up to £9.48.

The Tories’ years of budget cuts and privatisation have caused the NHS winter crisis. They will be responsible for any deaths that result from it.

The flu vaccine crisis shows the irrationality of a health service that is increasingly run like a private business and subject to market competition. The manufacture and distribution of drugs should be brought under public ownership and control.


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