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Swine flu vaccine shortage hits 'at risk' patients

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Patients in high risk groups have been asked to find their own swine flu vaccines

RESIDENTS of West Berkshire have today (Friday) claimed that NHS surgeries have been turning down requests for flu jabs if they are not considered 'at risk' because vaccines are running low.

Only yesterday, Newburytoday.co.uk reported that vaccine stocks were running low, but that there was enough available to deal with all those deemed at risk.

But today, surgeries have confirmed that they have been telling in patients ‘at risk' groups to seek vaccines from local pharmacies rather than at the surgeries.

A mother of a four-year-old girl who has asthma and is included in the ‘at risk' group, Victoria Sandars from Newbury, said: “I spoke to my surgery (St Mary's Road Surgery, Newbury) last Friday (December 31) and they said they had no vaccines available.

“They said they will give me a prescription, but it was up to me to find the vaccine.”

But she has said she has been unable to find vaccine anywhere.

“I have spoken to the pharmacist in person in every pharmacy in town, but they haven't got any,” she said.

However, surgeries in West Berkshire told this website this afternoon that they received emergency supplies earlier today (Friday) and are now supplying to pregnant women and children with respiratory problems.

The practice manager at Eastfield House Surgery in Newbury, Laura Hutchinson, said at 3pm today: “We have had difficulty procuring vaccines, but we have received new supplies literally an hour ago."

She said that up until this morning, patients who were in none risk groups were turned away and that those at risk were given prescriptions and asked to find their own vaccines which would then be administered by the surgery.

She did however stress that it was a developing situation.

“The instructions are changing all the time," she said.

“The PCT (Primary Care Trust) has been working very hard to try to make sure that everyone who needs a vaccine can get hold of one.”

This situation was also confirmed by various pharmacies in Newbury.

Members of staff at Boots in Northbrook St, Sainsbury's in King's Road and Tesco Extra in Pinchington Lane all said they had run out of vaccine.

A member of staff at Lloyds Pharmacy in the Kingsland Centre in Thatcham said: “We don't have any swine flu jabs available, we have run out, I'm afraid.

“We can't get hold of them, there is a manufacturing problem, they (the suppliers) have run out of stock.”

NHS Berkshire West spokesman Richard McCrann confirmed today (Friday) that supplies across West Berkshire, Reading and Wokingham were running low.

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

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

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, should they be able to find one.

Privately administered vaccines cost in the region of £12.99.

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

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

Watch this space for updates.

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