GPs scramble to cancel flu jabs as lorry driver shortage sparks delivery issues

3 September 2021, 20:41 | Updated: 3 September 2021, 20:47

A shortage of lorry drivers has been blamed for a 'two-week delay' for flu jab deliveries. Picture: Alamy

By Sophie Barnett

GPs across the UK are facing a two-week delay in flu jab deliveries following a shortage of lorry drivers.

The UK's largest supplier, Seqirus, told GP practices deliveries of jabs would be disrupted due to "unforeseen challenges linked with road freight delays".

GPs across England and Wales have been advised to reschedule their appointments following the disruption.

GP Online reported the company had sent a letter advising practices not to rebook appointments until they receive confirmation of a new delivery date of vaccine supplies.

An apparent exodus of lorry drivers from EU countries, who returned to the continent during the coronavirus pandemic and remained there, has been blamed for disruption in sectors of the economy in recent weeks.

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Furniture giant IKEA has recently blamed Brexit and the shortage of lorry drivers for issues with over 1,000 of its products.

Earlier this week, Wetherspoons announced it had been hit by the Brexit beer shortage - caused by the lack of HGV drivers.

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 - and have a "serious impact" on practice workloads and patients.

He said: "Many practices will have spent the last few days and weeks meticulously planning for their flu vaccination programme, inviting and booking patients in for their jabs, only now to have to contact them all again to cancel or reschedule appointments.

"This causes a huge increase in staff's already unsustainable workloads, and inconvenience and unneeded anxiety for patients who will be keen to be protected ahead of winter.

"This is on top of the chaos already being caused by the shortage of blood test bottles, which is leaving hardworking doctors and practice teams bearing the brunt of understandable frustrations from patients when the problem is well outside of their control.

"That this appears to be stemming from similar issues around freight capacity and transportation is incredibly concerning, and we must ask the Government exactly what it is doing to urgently address this."

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Health Secretary Sajid Javid has previously said the seasonal flu programme in England - beginning this month - will be the biggest in the country's history and urged everyone eligible to take up the jab.

It comes as the country prepares to deal with a normal flu season alongside the Covid pandemic.