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Last Updated: Wednesday, 23 November 2005, 05:39 GMT
Flu priority list figures revised
Image of an injection
GPs have been urged to only vaccinate those at highest risk of flu
There are more people on the priority list for flu vaccinations than first estimated, government figures suggest.

Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt has announced a review of flu vaccines orders, as supplies are running out.

The Department of Health based its need on 11 million people being at risk, but that has been revised to 13.2 million.

The Tories have said officials ordering vaccines should have factored in fears over bird flu and the extension of free jabs to carers of the elderly.

This year is the first time people who are the primary carers for elderly or disabled patients have been eligible for the vaccine.

Pandemic fears

The Department of Health said the 14 million vaccine doses ordered by GPs from manufacturers and held in a contingency pot by government had all been used.

It has ordered 200,000 more doses, but those will not be available until 2006.

People aged 65 and older
People with diabetes, chronic respiratory conditions such as asthma, serious heart or kidney disease
People with lowered immunity due to disease or treatment such as steroid medication or cancer therapy
GPs may also decide to give the vaccine to people with serious liver conditions, those living in residential homes and carers of the elderly and disabled

On Tuesday, the health secretary said the vaccines ordered by GPs and those kept in reserve should have been sufficient.

The government blames the shortage on demand outstripping supply, most likely fuelled by public concerns about the threat of a possible bird flu pandemic.

A government expert said GPs either did not order enough vaccines or have been giving them to people not in high risk groups. That accusation has been hotly denied by doctors.

Patricia Hewitt said she would review the ordering situation as a matter of urgency.

In the meantime, the Department of Health is advising GPs in England to use remaining stocks only on those at highest risk.

They include the over-65s and people with health problems such as heart disease, asthma and diabetes.

Because of these panickers, my 81-year-old grandmother has been unable to get her flu jab
James Hadfield, Mansfield, UK

The vaccine does not protect against avian flu, but offers some protection against common winter influenza.

The government has a national target of 70% uptake of immunisation for people aged 65 years and over.

It is not yet known whether all of the high risk groups eligible for the flu vaccine have already had their jab.

The Department of Health said it had written to GPs in England to inform them that they should no longer order flu vaccine stocks direct from suppliers.

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