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Fears over flu jab shortage and potential fourth wave of Covid infections

Delays in flu vaccine deliveries to GPs will cause delays in the jab rollout amid fears over high influenza levels and further coronavirus cases, an expert has said.

Appointments for many patients had to be rescheduled after Seqirus, the largest provider of flu vaccines to the UK, confirmed delays of up to two weeks in England and Wales. “Unforeseen challenges linked with road freight delays ” have been blamed for the disruption.

Experts are also warning the country to prepare for a fourth wave of coronavirus next month as levels of infection remain high across much of the UK before the return of schools and people move indoors after the summer.

Professor Anthony Harnden, deputy chairman of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), told BBC Breakfast on Saturday: “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.

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“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. So it’s really important to get the influenza immunisation and really important to get it as soon as possible.

“It is of concern that there are delays, but hopefully this will be corrected soon and we’ll get on in general practices, we always do.”

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.

Flu jab supplies have been delayed

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.”

Dr Richard Vautrey, British Medical Association GP committee chairman, said the issue is likely to affect a “significant proportion” of practices.

He 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.

Meanwhile, concerns of a fourth wave of coronavirus are mounting as health officials decide whether all over-50s should get the third vaccination. There are fears that a new tide if infections could hit the UK this winter, and experts believe third vaccinations could help curb hospitalisations.

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