Flu vac­ci­na­tions for 1m chil­dren de­layed by short­age

The Daily Telegraph - - News - By Laura Don­nelly HEALTH ED­I­TOR

SCHOOLS are to can­cel flu vac­ci­na­tions for thou­sands of young chil­dren amid a na­tional short­age of sup­plies.

GPS have been or­dered to pri­ori­tise tod­dlers and the sick­est chil­dren, amid warn­ings that a quar­ter of de­liv­er­ies – for around one mil­lion chil­dren – will now ar­rive late.

For the first time, all chil­dren aged be­tween two and 11 were due to be el­i­gi­ble for a free nasal spray in­oc­u­la­tion, with most re­ceiv­ing it at school. But man­u­fac­tur­ers have been be­set by prob­lems test­ing the vac­cine, called Fluenz Te­tra, re­sult­ing in the hold-ups.

Some schools will need to resched­ule vac­ci­na­tion ses­sions which were planned for this month, Pub­lic Health Eng­land (PHE) said. Chil­dren who are most at risk, such as those with asthma, should visit their GP if their school ses­sion is de­layed, PHE said.

It fol­lows warn­ings from medics that the NHS could face the worst win­ter cri­sis in his­tory, es­pe­cially if the “Aussie flu” that saw Aus­tralia ex­pe­ri­ence one of its worst flu sea­sons, has a sim­i­lar im­pact in the UK. The UK flu sea­son typ­i­cally be­gins to­wards the end of De­cem­ber. Of­fi­cials said they ex­pected all sup­plies to be in the coun­try by midde­cem­ber, leav­ing it for lo­cal health ser­vices to resched­ule ses­sions that were post­poned.

Flu vac­ci­na­tions for chil­dren have been grad­u­ally rolled out among dif­fer­ent age groups since 2013. They now cover all chil­dren be­tween the ages of two and 11.

Lau­rent Abuaf, coun­try pres­i­dent at As­trazeneca UK, which pro­duces the vac­cine, said: “We re­alise how im­por­tant it is to de­liver a full sup­ply of vac­cine to the NHS and are do­ing ev­ery­thing pos­si­ble to min­imise the de­lay of th­ese af­fected batches.

“As part of our nor­mal prod­uct re­lease process, we need to re­peat some tests be­fore a por­tion of our vac­cine sup­ply can be re­leased and de­liv­ered.

“It is para­mount that all batches com­plete the test­ing process be­fore they can be sup­plied, and we are work­ing as fast as pos­si­ble to achieve this.

“We are com­mit­ted to work­ing in part­ner­ship with Pub­lic Health Eng­land and the Depart­ment of Health and So­cial Care to sup­port the ear­li­est pos­si­ble de­liv­ery of all the nasal spray vac­cine needed for the NHS child­hood sea­sonal flu im­mu­ni­sa­tion pro­gramme.”

Dr Mary Ram­say, head of im­mu­ni­sa­tion at PHE, said: “We are work­ing with As­trazeneca and NHS Eng­land and NHS Im­prove­ment to en­sure that all el­i­gi­ble chil­dren get their flu vac­cine as soon as pos­si­ble. Chil­dren who have un­der­ly­ing med­i­cal con­di­tions that make them more vul­ner­a­ble to flu will be pri­ori­tised by GPS first.”

The ma­jor­ity of the flu vac­cine has al­ready been made avail­able to GPS and schools, PHE said.

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