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Millions face flu jab delay

29th June 2006

Doctors have been warned to expect a delay in receiving winter flu vaccinations, because of manufacturing problems, the Department of Health said.

Doctors have been told to prioritise those most vulnerable, including pensioners and those with long-term conditions like heart and chest conditions when the immunisation programme begins.

But the government said the delay was unlikely to lead to a flu outbreak.

Manufacturers should know the full extent of the problem - particularly the impact on total quantity of vaccine available - by the end of July.

Patients have been told to wait until their clinic invites them to go for their seasonal flu vaccine.

Flu is estimated to kill several thousand people in the UK each year. Vaccines help prevent deaths but have to be made afresh each year because the flu virus mutates.

The Department of Health said manufacturers are currently encountering problems growing one of the vaccine virus strains recommended for this year's seasonal flu vaccine.

It comes after flu jab supplies ran low last year because of a surge in demand - put down to fears over bird flu. It meant many of the most vulnerable people did not get their jab until well into winter.

The Department of Health predicts 15.2 million vaccines are needed.

Dr David Salisbury, director of immunisation at the Department of Health, said an outbreak of influenza was unlikely unless vaccination supplies were really late and the flu season arrived exceptionally early.

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