Ulster Unionist MLA Rosemary Barton has warned that a shortage in this year’s flu vaccine is potentially putting vulnerable patients at risk.
The Fermanagh and South Tyrone MLA has written to the head of the Department of Health seeking urgent clarification as to why a number of patients across the Dungannon area have repeatedly been turned away due to a shortage of flu vaccines.
Rosemary Barton MLA said:
“A number of weeks ago I was contacted by a several patients in the Dungannon area who were concerned that when they had went along for the flu jab they were informed by their general practice that it had ran out of the vaccines and that it was going to be the end of October before any new supplies could be brought in.
“When those same patients returned at the end of the month as advised, they have again been told that it will likely be yet another two weeks before any vaccines are available.
“There were already major concerns over the future of GP services in the Dungannon area and these delays in receiving the flu jab are now only making the situation even worse.
“For some people the winter flu is nothing more than a mild irritation, yet for some others – such as those aged over 65 or with underlying health conditions such as asthma – it can really be severe and quite dangerous.
“Given the importance of the vaccine it is therefore hugely concerning that there appears to be major issues with the supply in the Dungannon area.
“Only last month the Public Health Agency stressed that they anticipated no problems with this year’s supplies, but for patients across Dungannon that simply isn’t the case.
“I have now written to the Permanent Secretary of the Department of Health seeking urgent answers as to what actions are being taken to rectify the situation.
“I have also asked him whether it would be possible for other GP practices to be encouraged to share stocks of the flu vaccine in the meantime.
“Unless urgent action is taken I fear the jabs may come too late and as a result even more avoidable pressures will be heaped on the health service this winter.”