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Pharmacists and patients have been let down by flu jab shambles

Those curmudgeons who harp on about pharmacists’ supposed inability to adapt or deliver at scale should be pointed to the national flu vaccination service.

In just three seasons, community pharmacies have become the preferred choice for many wanting a jab, both private and NHS. Last year pharmacists carried out 1.3 million vaccinations, no appointment necessary, with patients raving about the convenience and accessibility on offer. Researchers proved it was cost-effective, the fee was increased, the service specification widened – what could possibly go wrong?

Quite a lot, actually. There have been problems everywhere. Confusion in certain quarters over the new PGD was quickly overshadowed by the supply problems affecting both flu vaccines, but especially the new adjuvanted trivalent version, Fluad.

It has been a shambles. Through no fault of its own, pharmacy’s credibility as a service provider has taken a knock. Members of the public don’t care about the finer points of “rephasing” when they pitch up at their local pharmacy for a flu jab, only to be told – we don’t have any, you’ll have to go to your GP surgery.

Inevitably, some GPs pounced on the situation and attempted to drive a wedge between the professions in what is already a contentious area. So all credit to those pharmacies who supported GP surgeries with vaccine shortages.

The onus is now on NHS England and the vaccine manufacturers to learn the lessons and get their act together for next year. Pharmacists and, most importantly, patients have been badly let down.

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