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'No doses have disappeared': HSE's Colm Henry rejects claims that some flu vaccines missing

Reports claim the HSE has suspended the distribution of the vaccine after it emerged 600,000 are missing.

HSE Chief Clinical Officer Dr Colm Henry
HSE Chief Clinical Officer Dr Colm Henry
Image: Sam Boal via RollingNews.ie

THE HSE HAS rejected reports that 600,000 doses of the flu vaccine have gone missing. 

The Irish Independent reported this morning that the HSE had suspended the distribution of the vaccine after it emerged 600,000 were missing.

It reported that in a letter to GPs earlier this week, the HSE said that approximately 1.3 million doses of vaccine had been distributed to date, but only 700,000 of those were recorded as administered on the claims system used by healthcare professionals to reimburse costs. 

In a statement to TheJournal.ie, the HSE said it has full records of the 1.3 million doses which have been distributed to date this year. 

“Applications for reimbursement through PCRS have been made in relation to 700,000 doses which indicates that some of the vaccine that has been distributed has yet to be either administered and/or an application for reimbursement submitted,” the HSE said. 

“Therefore, we intend to obtain more information prior to distributing the remaining doses of vaccine.” 

The HSE’s Chief Clinical Officer Dr Colm Henry this morning clarified that “no doses have disappeared”. 

“We’ve records back and over 700,000 [vaccines] have been administered,” Henry told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland. 

“It’s normal for a lag time between us distributing the vaccine to GPs and pharmacies and records coming back as to who has been administered,” he said.

RTÉ has reported that there has been a delay in sending out the next 50,000 doses because the HSE wants to determine where supply is still needed. 

Henry said that the HSE is now seeing to find out where the greatest level of demand for the flu vaccine remains. 

“We’re very clear about those priority groups as per the WHO recommendations, namely older people over 65 years of age, healthcare workers in direct contact with patients, and other groups. That’s where we want to focus our remaining stock that we normally hold back,” Henry said. 

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“No vaccines have disappeared. We’ve held back as we normally do every year, in a year of unprecedented demand, 50,000 [vaccines] so we can ascertain where the gaps are, where the priority groups in most need of this vaccine are, and distribute those remaining 50,000 by the end of November,” he said. 

The HSE said that the most recent report “indicates that there is no evidence of influenza viruses circulating in the community in Ireland”. 

“If uptake among those in the at-risk groups and children aged 2-12 reflects the demand seen to date, twice as many people may be vaccinated this year as in the 2019/20 vaccination season,” the HSE said. 

“This will help to limit the spread of the flu in the community and to limit the impact of the flu on the health service,” it said. 

“In addition, infection control prevention measures which the public is being asked to follow to prevent the spread of Covid-19 will also prevent the spread of flu. Observing social distancing, practicing good respiratory/hand hygiene, wearing of face coverings and staying at home if we have symptoms will also prevent the spread of the flu,” it said. 

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