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Flu vaccines running low

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West Berkshire is running low on supplies of flu vaccines following a rise in demand for swine flu immunisation

FLU vaccine supplies in West Berkshire are running low and doctors are having to pool resources to cope with the rising demand for swine flu immunisation, it was confirmed yesterday (Thursday).

Surgeries in the area are now sharing supplies to ensure that no-one deemed at high risk of catching influenza goes without a vaccination.

Nationally, 50 people have died from swine flu this winter, with 11 succumbing to the virus during the past week and nearly 800 people are receiving critical care in hospital.

Dr James Cave, GP at Chieveley's Downlands Surgery, said: “We would not normally have any demand for flu vaccinations at this time of the year at all. We would normally have dealt with this by October/November, but we have noticed the spike in demand since returning from the Christmas break.”

He added that the more severe strain of flu encountered this year, which is particularly affecting the 16 to 65-year-old age group, was to blame for the increased vaccination requests.

But he stressed that people should not panic.

“We are not worried,” he said.

“Practices are pooling their resources. If a surgery has spare vaccines, they share it with others that might not have enough.

“There is enough available locally for the ‘at risk' group.”

NHS Berkshire West spokesman Richard McCrann yesterday (Thursday) confirmed that GPs across West Berkshire, Reading and Wokingham were working together to ensure available supplies of surplus vaccine are moved to where they are most needed so that ‘at risk' groups were able to receive the vaccination.

He said: “Vaccine supplies are low in some areas and further limited supplies have been received by a number of practices.”

The Department of Health has decided to address the shortage nationally by allowing GPs to administer swine flu vaccines stockpiled during the 2009 outbreak.

Groups of people considered most ‘at risk' from influenza are entitled to a free flu vaccination on the NHS and include the over-65s, pregnant women and people with long-term health problems such as heart disease, diabetes and some people with asthma.

Anyone not included in this group must pay for a vaccination.

Various pharmacies in Newbury yesterday indicated that they had ample vaccine supplies available and were providing vaccinations to people with or without prescriptions.

Without a prescription, most pharmacies will only see customers with an appointment, but some pharmacies will allow appointments to be arranged for the same day that their prescption is provided.

At Boots, the cost of being vaccinated on site without a perscription is £12.99.

Staff at the Boots pharmacy in Northbrook Street and at Sainsbury's pharmacy on King's Road have indicated that they will see customers without prescriptions.

Day Lewis pharmacy on The Broadway also has vaccines available, but they do not administer them on site.

The only pharmacy in the area which has confirmed that it has run out of vaccine is Tesco Extra in Pinchington Lane, which was providing on the spot vaccinations.

A member of staff said yesterday: “We have none at the moment.

“What we are doing at the moment is asking people to leave their details and we will get in touch when vaccines are available.

“We haven't had them for about a week and we don't know when our stocks will arrive.”

If you have been affected by matters relating to this story, please email eddie.vanderwalt@newburynews.co.uk.

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