Friday, September 17, 1999 Published at 18:39 GMT 19:39 UK
Doctors condemn 'scandalous' vaccine shortage
Vaccines for babies are in short supply
Doctors have warned that the government must take immediate action to stem a "scandalous" shortage of vaccines for potentially fatal illnesses such as meningitis, TB and diptheria.
GPs have been told it could be up to a month before they get new supplies due to production problems.
The BMA's GP Committee unanimously backed a motion condemning an "appalling" situation which has led to:
Officials accused GPs of being irresponsible, and of trying to create a panic when they know the government has taken action.
But Dr John Chisholm, chair of the GPC said: "Were it not so serious this would be farcical.
"At the same time as the Health Department is sending people to the doctor for immunisation, they are failing to ensure that GPs have the vaccines needed to do the job."
An 'absolute disgrace'
He said: "This is an absolute scandal and a complete disgrace - I have not seen anything like this in 21 years as a GP.
"As a matter of good practice we call up parents to remind them to come and get the diphtheria vaccine for children starting school.
"I am having to tell parents who are coming to the surgery that I have no vaccines to give them."
Commenting on the shortage of the meningitis vaccine, Dr David Salisbury, Department of Health principal medical officer, said: "We have been shipping out very large quantities of the vaccine since late August and those quantities have been going up by the day over the last few days, and will continue to do so over this week and next week."
A spokeswoman for the Department of Health said: "The Secretary of State called in the manufacturers of the diphtheria tetanus vaccine at the end of July and told them the situation with shortages was unacceptable.
"They agreed to implement plans to rectify that shortage and those plans are being implemented now."