Drive-through flu jabs considered for Suffolk – but big shortfall in jabs predicted for the region
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East Anglia could be facing a shortfall of thousands of flu jabs this year a health meeting has heard – with drive-through vaccinations under discussion for Suffolk.
Questions were raised at Suffolk County Council’s health scrutiny committee meeting on Wednesday about the flu vaccination programme for this year,
During the discussion, it emerged that across East Anglia as a whole health services could be short of thousands of jabs, because orders for the vaccine had to be placed in February and March prior to Covid-19, and the pandemic is likely to result in higher take-ups of people wanting the antibodies this year.
Dr Nick Rayner, a Newmarket-based GP and representative of Suffolk GP Federation in the meeting said that there would likely be a shortfall of at least several thousands but could be as many as 400,000.
He said: “A small logistics group is working on how to fulfil the flu jabs that are necessary.
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“Usual uptake is 75% of those that are able to have it and wish to have it.
“Assuming that 100% of the population wish to have it and are able to have it, we are going to be thousands of vaccinations short because we have ordered back in March and February, before Covid, the right number based on previous historic levels of uptake.
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“There is going to be an issue, which has already been highlighted, that we expect 400,000 short in East Anglia.”
Concerns were raised over those who were not confident leaving their homes during the pandemic, and those who may not feel comfortable going to a GP or pharmacy for their vaccination, with health bosses revealing that one idea under consideration is drive-through vaccinations similar to the Covid-19 test centres.
Dr Rayner said: “We are looking at how to not bring patients into practices and [looking to have] large open space such as the showground in Ipswich and the racecourse in Newmarket, and having car lanes of people having flu jabs without getting out of their car.
“There are all sorts of ideas but the logistics is the tricky bit.”
Health bosses confirmed that those who would need to have a vaccination in their home could do so, but were looking to minimise those numbers where possible because of the logistics of organising the visits.
Councillor Stephen Burroughes from the committee said there could be a spike in the Autumn and problems could arise as there would be “no distinguishing signs between flu and Covid” in terms of symptoms.
A spokesman from the Ipswich and East Suffolk and West Suffolk clinical commissioning groups said: “GP practices and pharmacies are planning ahead for the winter flu season and will follow national NHS guidance.
“The vaccine provides important health protection for those in at-risk groups and we will work with our partners to support the vaccination programme.”
Health teams are expecting more guidance from NHS England next week.