'Flu jabs shortage could force us to play God'
HEALTH officials in Cottingham fear patients are being put at risk by a lack of flu vaccinations.
Hallgate Surgery staff said there was a lack of vaccines due to a manufacturing problem.
Practice manager Lynne McCormick said about 700 of the surgery's 2,500 patients need the vaccine.
She said: "I'm worried if we don't get enough, we will be left to decide who gets them.
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"We don't want to be in that situation and we don't want to play God with people's health in that way.
"I have one for a young chap who is having chemotherapy. But other than that, we have nothing."
Vulnerable patients in the East Riding struggled to protect themselves against flu as vaccination stocks ran low in January last year. GPs are believed to have rationed the vaccines to prioritise those most at risk.
"At risk" groups include those over 65, pregnant women and people with chronic heart conditions.
After informing patients of flu clinics, Mrs McCormick said she has had to tell them the vaccine is not currently available.
She has placed a note in the surgery, stating: "Flu clinic cancelled until further notice due to manufacturing problems. Notification of revised clinic dates will be displayed in the surgery window as soon as vaccines are available. We apologise for the inconvenience."
Surgeries are responsible for ordering their own flu vaccines and manufacturers vary.
Mrs McCormick said Hallgate Surgery is on a waiting list with another manufacturer but she is not certain enough will be made available.
"Lots of companies are selling the vaccines to pharmacies and supermarkets, so the walking well can buy them," she said.
"I'm on a waiting list with another company but, even then, they can't guarantee how many we will get.
"We have a lot of residential homes and that's where the biggest risk is at the moment.
"We have sent out 1,000 letters advertising flu clinics to patients and we can't afford to send another round of letters. This has really left us in a mess."
Lynne said the health of the patients who need a flu vaccination is a concern.
She said: "We have some pretty poorly patients and I'm very concerned for them. If you have a mixture of asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, the consequences could be pretty dire."
Mrs McCormick said patients have raised concerns about the situation.
"We have taken a lot of flak but quite a lot of people are very worried," she said.
"The vaccination doesn't prevent flu but it stops it being fatal and progressing to pneumonia.
"If this situation happens, there should be a system where it's chronic disease patients first.
"It's not the first time this has happened but never to this degree.
"The worry and distress it causes the patients is the unacceptable side of this issue."