Each practice in England is, on average, giving 106 less flu jabs this year compared to last year, leading to a surplus of unused vaccines, according to Royal College of GPs (RCGP) figures released today.
Compared with the same period last year, 6% fewer flu jabs have been given by GPs with some practices claiming their surgery fridges “are full” of unused vaccines.
The figures were deemed “extremely alarming” by Dr Maureen Baker, RCGP chair, amid fears that thousands of patients, particularly those in at-risk groups, could be risking their health.
Baker said one reason for this could be “an incredibly mild November this year,” but warned “we don’t need cold weather for a flu outbreak and influenza is a horrible illness that can also an trigger a host of other health problems.”
Yet, Professor Simon de Lusignan, a GP in Guildford, Surrey, said: “it is possible that perceptions of lower vaccine effectiveness last year may have influenced people. However, the overall effectiveness of the vaccine last year was reasonable and patients are much better protected by having it.”
While patients can get the vaccine from pharmacists, the RCGP said the majority still receive it at GP practices.
They are now urging patients “not to shun the reminders they receive from the GP surgery and to have their vaccination as a priority,” Baker said.