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Lack of flu jabs for elderly unacceptable

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'The revelation in today's paper that Northern Ireland has insufficient flu vaccines for people aged 65 and over is a correction to last week's elation in some quarters after the good news about a 90%-effective Covid vaccine.'

'The revelation in today's paper that Northern Ireland has insufficient flu vaccines for people aged 65 and over is a correction to last week's elation in some quarters after the good news about a 90%-effective Covid vaccine.'

PA

'The revelation in today's paper that Northern Ireland has insufficient flu vaccines for people aged 65 and over is a correction to last week's elation in some quarters after the good news about a 90%-effective Covid vaccine.'

The revelation in today's paper that Northern Ireland has insufficient flu vaccines for people aged 65 and over is a correction to last week's elation in some quarters after the good news about a 90%-effective Covid vaccine.

Doctors are now considering giving the under-65 flu jab to older patients to afford them some protection against this winter's virus, though the solution is far from ideal.

Worse still, the situation may complicate the planned roll-out of the Covid-19 virus being developed by the US pharmaceutical giant Pfizer with BioNTech of Germany. This is a further problem we could do without at this time.

The British Medical Association is rightly scathing about the lack of communication from the Government over flu vaccine levels, and argues that if its members had been told about the shortfall, it could have ensured that patients most-at-risk could have been treated first.

Until Covid-19 arrived earlier this year, the flu was among the greatest health issues facing the Government.

Fortunately, Northern Ireland has been spared the worst of this seasonal flu, but there are fears of a spike in December and January.

An English study conducted during the first wave of the pandemic found that people infected with both flu and coronavirus were at six times the risk of death compared to the general population.

The study also revealed that 43% of those with double infections died, compared to just 27% of those who tested positive only for Covid-19.

The demand for the vaccine has seen a marked rise this year, compared to previously, and this is due in part to the Government's public awareness campaign.

More than 500,000 doses of flu vaccine have been distributed in Northern Ireland already - an unprecedented number at this stage of the flu vaccination programme.

A temporary pause in the supply of the vaccine to the under-65s was announced on October 19, until further stocks became available.

Clearly the minds of scientists, clinicians and Government ministers have been focused necessarily on finding a viable coronavirus vaccine, and that is understandable, given the ferocity with which the pandemic struck.

However, it is only right that hard questions are asked about the procurement process for flu vaccine before we sleepwalk into a repeat of the debacle over the PPE supplies in March and April.

Belfast Telegraph


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