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Concerns over 'significant delay' in delivery of flu vaccine from HSE supplier

Pharmacists have said the uncertainty about deliveries and cancellation of appointments may undermine the vaccination programme.

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THERE ARE CONCERNS about delays in deliveries of the flu vaccine as GPs and pharmacies attempt to provide the vaccine to vulnerable groups in the community before winter.

HSE Chief Clinical Officer Dr Colm Henry today confirmed the drug company notified the HSE that the latest delivery of vaccinations will be delayed. He said despite the “timing issues” with this third batch, the HSE remains on target to deliver 1.4 million vaccines this year.

He said the HSE is reinforcing the message to primary care providers and pharmacies this week to retain the vaccines for those in priority groups.

The Irish Pharmacy Union (IPU) has said it shares the public’s frustration about the “significant delays”, but urged people to “bear with pharmacies as they manage queries about the availability” of the vaccine.

“We recognise this is a challenging environment for the HSE to operate in,” said IPU secretary general Darragh O’Loughlin today.

“There are global supply issues that are well publicised, and we know from our pharmacy colleagues abroad that these problems are having an impact all across Europe and further afield. Unfortunately, it is still not clear when or if these supply issues will be fully resolved.

This year has seen a huge increase in requests for flu vaccination, which is encouraging, except that many pharmacies and GPs are unable to procure enough vaccines. The fact that we can’t tell patients exactly when we will have vaccines available is leading to huge amounts of uncertainty and frustration, with people fed up of having their appointments rescheduled or cancelled due to the shortage of vaccines.

O’Loughlin said this has potential to undermine this year’s vaccination programme.

“It is disheartening to all those involved that ongoing vaccine shortages are stymieing the service and information remains elusive.”

Dr Nuala O’Connor, Cork GP and Covid lead for the Irish College of General Practitioners (ICGP), told TheJournal.ie that while many people may want to get the vaccine this year, GPs will have to give priority to those in vulnerable groups.

“The stocks haven’t come into the country and that’s nobody’s fault, the HSE was let down by their supply chain. We’d love to give it as much as we can as quickly as possible but we have to wait until we have it in the surgery,” she said.

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“The thing is that a lot of people might like to get it but we do have to prioritise people in the at risk groups, to everyone over 65, people in nursing homes, those with chronic conditions and healthcare workers. We need to prioritise those first and hopefully if we can access more later on then other people outside of that could get it.”

She said the nasal flu vaccination that has been rolled out for children between the ages of two and 12 will be vital this year.

“It’s an incredibly important public health measure because we know that in contrast to Covid, children are vectors for the transmission of flu. If we can successfully vaccinate them we will protect more vulnerable people.”

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