Patients waiting for a flu vaccine have been told to expect delays because of the lorry drivers shortage.
Medics are said to be concerned after appointments for many patients were rescheduled because of delivery problems.
Seqirus, the largest provider of flu vaccines to the UK, confirmed delays of up to two weeks in England and Wales – blaming “unforeseen challenges linked with road freight delays ” for the disruption.
GP Online reported that it had been sent a letter advising practices not to rebook appointments until they receive confirmation of a new delivery date for vaccine supplies.
An apparent exodus of HGV drivers from EU countries, who returned to the continent during the coronavirus pandemic and remained there, has been blamed for disruption in sectors of the economy in recent weeks. Companies such as Coca-Cola, McDonald’s and Wetherspoon said they had been affected by delivery issues.
Dr Richard Vautrey, British Medical Association GP committee chairman, said the issue is likely to affect a “significant proportion” of practices and warned of a “serious impact” on practice workloads and patients.
Free flu vaccines will be available to more than 35 million people including all secondary school students this winter, according to the Government.
A Seqirus spokeswoman said: “Seqirus supplies influenza vaccines to all GP practices in England and Wales.
“Due to unforeseen challenges linked with road freight delays, we have informed all our customers of a consequent delay to their scheduled vaccine delivery by a maximum of one to two weeks. Seqirus is working hard to resolve the delay to allow customers to reschedule their influenza vaccination clinics.”
Scientists anticipate there could be a surge of flu infections this winter.
Professor Anthony Harnden, deputy chairman of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, told the BBC : “Clearly influenza immunisation this year is really important and the reason it’s so important is because of lockdowns we’ve had very low circulating influenza levels last winter.
“So we do know when there are low circulating influenza levels the year before, often we get high infection rates in the following year so it’s quite possible that we’ll have a high instance of influenza this year.”
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