Derry pupils won't get 'flu jab until January following vaccine supply issues

Flu vaccines cancelled.
Flu vaccines cancelled.

Hundreds of Derry school children won’t be vaccinated against ‘flu until after Christmas due to vaccine supply issues, it has emerged.

Several local primary schools have advised parents that vaccinations have been put off until early in the new year.

The postponements stem from delays in the supply of some batches of the Fluenz Tetra influenza vaccine, which were first reported in England last month. It means hundreds of local children won’t receive their vaccinations until the middle of the 2019/20 ‘flu season.

A spokesperson for the Public Health Agency (PHA) said there was enough stock to complete the schools vaccination programme. But it said schools and health trusts were rescheduling as a direct knock-on from the supply issues.

“The school programme has recommenced and there is enough stock to continue as planned. Health Trusts each have their own contingency plans for managing the rescheduling of the affected vaccination slots and this is currently being done,” said the PHA.

Problems with the supply of Fluenz Tetra, which is procured by Public Health England on behalf of the PHA here, were first reported in October.

Dr. Gerry Waldron, Assistant Director of Public Health (Health Protection) at the PHA, predicted at the time that “the disruption to supply may lead to vaccinations in some primary schools being rescheduled, but all eligible children will have an opportunity to receive their vaccine.”

He said: “Whilst this situation is unfortunate, it is completely outside our control and we would continue to urge eligible people to get vaccinated, as we know this is the best way to protect against the flu. Parents of at-risk children and pre-schoolers should make themselves aware of their own GP surgery’s flu vaccination arrangements.”

According to the PHA’s latest flu surveillance data, ‘flu consultations were up year-on-year for the week October 28 to November 10.

GP flu/FLI consultation rates were 6.5 per 100,000 population in week 44 and 7.2 per 100,000 in week 45, which is higher than the same time last year (3.8 and 5.0 per 100,000, respectively). Activity remains below the baseline threshold for Northern Ireland, according to the report.

A spokesperson for the Western Trust confirmed: “Across Northern Ireland two weeks of the school Flu programme was cancelled under direction from PHA (week commencing 11 November 2019 and 18 November 2019) however, with their agreement, these two weeks have been rescheduled for week commencing 06 January 2020 and 13 January 2020 and all our primary schools therefore will be completed as normal.”