“Unprecedented demand” for flu jabs already

Boots the chemist say that due to “unprecedented demand” for flu vaccinations this year and stock availability they have had to suspend bookings for anyone under the age of 65.

In July, the Government said that they are expanding the flu vaccine programme to cover millions of people across the country. The aim was to relieve winter pressures on A&E and emergency care in case of a second wave of coronavirus infections.

Before this year flu vaccinations have been available on the NHS only to those over 65 and those who are particularly vulnerable medically. The Government announced that this year the NHS jab would be available to 50-64 year olds, children aged two and three, primary school aged children and those in Year 7 at secondary schools as well as for carers of people who are particularly at risk. Health Secretary Matt Hancock called it “the biggest flu vaccination programme in history”.

Will there be enough to go round?

How widespread is Boots’ experience? Doctors surgeries aren’t prepared to commit yet to whether there will be enough flu vaccine available to meet the promise, but several surgeries have told The Chiswick Calendar that they will make sure they meet their commitment to those at greater risk first, over 65s and those who are particularly vulnerable. (Ie. if you’re pregnant, have a serious heart or chest condition, including asthma, have a serious kidney disease, have diabetes, have lowered immunity due to disease or treatment such as steroid medication or cancer treatment or if you have ever had a stroke).

The age group 50-64 will only start receiving their vaccinations in November and December, providing there is sufficient vaccine. If you are between 50-64 years old and you are in one of the at-risk groups eligible for the flu vaccination, then you will be invited to be vaccinated earlier.

Images above: Grove Park Surgery, Chiswick Family Doctors Practice – Chiswick Health Centre, Wellesley Road Practice

What Chiswick’s doctors are saying

Physical visits to doctors’ surgeries are still heavily restricted due to the ongoing situation with coronavirus. Doctors will usually offer you an appointment over the phone and they will then decide whether or not you need a follow up appointment in person.

The Chiswick Calendar spoke to several of Chiswick’s GP surgeries to find out more information about the flu vaccine programme.

Wellesley Road Practice, Chiswick Family Doctors Practice and Grove Park Surgery all told us that those in the over 65 and particularly vulnerable category would be sent a text message to ask them to come in for a flu jab.

Dr Drewry at Grove Park Surgery told The Chiswick Calendar that they had started vaccinating much earlier than usual and were already fairly well on with the process. Children as well as adults are already being vaccinated.

“I can reassure people that all the at risk groups and over 65s will be able to be vaccinated and we are encouraging people to book”.

This year there is no walk-in service. Patients are asked to make an appointment. Not everyone has a mobile and some of those who do have asked not to receive messages by text, so they are making every effort to get hold of those people to invite them in for an appointment, he said.

“There has been an unprecedented amount of people booking in this year” he added.

GPs are waiting to hear from the Government about when the vaccinations will be rolled out to the 50 – 64 age group.

“We haven’t had an update on how this is to be delivered” said Dr Drewry.

Wellesley Road Practice told The Chiswick Calendar that they weren’t sure yet [whether there will be a shortage in vaccinations] as “we haven’t received the vaccinations just yet from the manufacturer – so we aren’t sure what is going to happen”.

Chiswick Family Doctors Practice said: “there’s not a shortage but it’s because the people who supply the flu jab are only supplying a certain amount to each surgery, so they basically have to prioritise people who had them last year – because it saves them calling everybody around in case they don’t have enough”.

Images above: Sabel Pharmacy, Churchill’s Pharmacy, Campbell’s Chemist

What the pharmacies are saying

If you’re unable to get a vaccination with your GP and you want one, they recommend the next best option is to go to a pharmacy.

Sabel Pharmacy, Campbells Chemist and Churchills Pharmacy on Chiswick High Road and are all offering the free NHS flu jab to the eligible groups listed above. All of these pharmacies are also offering the private vaccination for all ages if you don’t qualify for the NHS jab.

“A serious disease”

Back in July, when the government announced the flu vaccine drive, the Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, said:

“If you are eligible for a free vaccine, whether it’s for the first time or because you usually receive one, then I would urge you to get it, not just to protect yourself, but to protect the NHS and your loved ones, from flu.

“The flu can be a serious disease, especially for vulnerable people or those with underlying health conditions.

“Eligible groups are urged to get their free vaccine every year. However, with COVID-19 still in circulation, this year’s campaign will be particularly vital to protect the most vulnerable and reduce the number of people needing flu treatment from the NHS”.

If you’re unsure which GP you belong to, you can find your local GP by following the link below:

nhs.uk/service-search/find-a-gp

Image above: the Health Secretary – Matt Hancock

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