NHS bosses and GPs are blaming each other for failing to provide enough flu jabs for the over-65s.
Thousands of elderly patients have not yet been vaccinated after surgeries and chemists ran out of stock.
One pharmacist in Bristol said he was turning away 15 elderly patients a day and shortages have also been reported in Surrey, Kent, Middlesbrough, Birmingham and Bolton. The problems were triggered by the rollout of a new jab.
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This year the over-65s are being given an improved flu jab called Fluad. But GPs say they were only given official instructions from NHS England in February to use it – four months after they traditionally place orders with suppliers. Pictured is a stock image
GP leaders said NHS England only told them to switch vaccines in February after they had placed orders in September and October 2017 to be used this autumn.
But NHS England has criticised doctors and pharmacists for failing to act quickly enough to switch stocks once the guidance went out. It gave them until the end of March to place orders for the vaccine, manufactured by Surrey-based firm Seqirus, which it claims was plenty of time.
NHS England said that there is enough of the new vaccine, Fluad, to go around and a batch is expected to arrive in surgeries next week. The flu season usually starts to take hold in December.
Richard Vautrey, the chairman of the British Medical Association’s GP committee, said that NHS England had to learn from its failings to avoid similar shortages next year.
While Judith Jolly, the Lib Dems’ health spokesman, said: ‘It is disgraceful that the most vulnerable people in our society are being left at risk.’