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Last Updated: Thursday, 24 November 2005, 15:27 GMT
Your views: Flu jabs
The government has announced a shortage of flu vaccine, raising the prospect of at risk people not being immunised.


The flu jab, used to help protect people against winter flu, is offered on the NHS to the 9.5m people over 65 in England, Scotland and Wales.

Additionally, it is available to 3.7m younger people who are deemed at risk.

The Department of Health has announced the stock of flu jabs is running out and urged GPs to only use what is left on the most vulnerable people.

What has been your experience of flu vaccinations so far this year? Are you one of the "vulnerable" who has been unable to get the jab?

Alternatively, are you one of the worried healthy who has been able to get the jab regardless? If so, what were the circumstances and how much did you have to pay?


The e-mails published reflect the balance of opinion received

I am an inner city GP in Glasgow. We initially had problems getting a supply of vaccine but when it became available we seem to have had enough to go round. Our uptake in over 65s is only about 62% (even worse than last year!) We sent letters to all our "at risk" patients, and are now phoning round. Uptake has not been that good. We also offered "carers" immunisation and have only done about 10! Maybe things are different in Scotland? Certainly we have not been dishing it out (as suggested in some sections of the media) to all and sundry!
Dr Patricia Fitzsimons, Glasgow

My employer, who sits in his office all day, managed to get his flu jab privately
David, London
My husband is a very fit, active 45 year old with no medical conditions. Twice in the last couple of weeks he has been sent a letter by his GP practice telling him to come in for his flu jab. He didn't take up the offer, but why was he offered it if there is a shortage?
Chris Long, Broadstone

My employer, who sits in his office all day, managed to get his flu jab privately. Shame his staff, who serve the public, couldn't afford that luxury. He's taken it from people who really need it like my grandmother, or my colleague's mother who's currently recovering from major surgery. My employer's just caught flu - poetic justice?
David, London

My wife, who is in her early forties, has a congenital heart condition - this year she was told that her name was no longer on the 'at risk' group
Phil Pullen
I have asthma and therefore am in the "vulnerable" category. I had an appointment with the practice nurse at my surgery for a blood pressure and asthma check on 22 November - around the time the media was stating that everywhere had ran out - and was offered a flu jab. I didn't ask but was offered so thought that, since I'm in the vulnerable category, I might as well have it. So, in my experience, no problem at all.
Robin Tetley, Wollaton

My wife, who is in her early forties, has a congenital heart condition and in previous years has automatically had a flu jab. This year when she contacted the surgery to arrange her jab she was told that her name was no longer on the "at risk" group and therefore she did not qualify for a jab.
Phil Pullen, Plymouth

I now face waiting until the end of January when the surgery expect their next batch
Ruth Parry
The local PCT runs a clinic for agricultural workers at Bakewell Market. It has been doing flu jabs. I have just been notified by them by fax that they have given a flu jab to one of my patients. He is not in the at-risk group. He is definitely one of the worried well and he is not even an agricultural worker.
Dr PJP Holden, Matlock

I have been having flu jabs since the 60s. First it was to reduce sick leave at work and then for some reason that went out of fashion and in contradiction of our medical officer's advice they were stopped. I went to my own doctor to continue but they insisted that I pay. I wouldn't pay and by chance came across another doctor who said that I shouldn't pay as it was against the health service charter. This doctor said that I could be a patient at their practice just once a year to get my flu jab. That continued for a few years until my own practice decided that I was eligible to have it free of charge, due to my age I suppose. I have not had flu since the early 60s and I also had it in 1957/8, then called Asian flu and something that I would never want again. I was off for three weeks and only delicate for about two weeks after that.
Noel Dobson, York

I am 31 with Rheumatoid Arthritis, which requires me to take medication to suppress my immune system. I waited three weeks for a nurse to come and give me my jab as I have difficulty getting to the surgery. When they finally got in touch, I was about to go away and was told to ring the nurses when I returned. I did so, two weeks later, only to be informed that they had no vaccines left! I now face waiting until the end of January when the surgery expect their next batch.
Ruth Parry, Pontypridd

As one of the 'at risk' I had no problem whatsoever
Doreen Richards
I am 63. Usually I buy a private injection at Victoria Station MediCentre for 15. This year they have no vaccine and say they will get none. Last Thursday in Boulogne (northern France) I bought vaccine in a pharmacy for EUR 6.26 (about 4.50). No prescription, no formality. It came in a disposable syringe. I injected myself in the arm. French TV implied that buying at a pharmacy was routine. If so, why not here? Why take up time in surgeries and clinics if we are ready to do it ourselves?
Alan Reynolds, Croydon

I work for a Dutch poultry breeding company. They suggested that I should get a "flu jab" at their expense. I contacted my local doctor's surgery and have an appointment for next week! Well done the NHS.
Brian High, Verwood

About two weeks ago I received a telephone call from my GP's surgery cancelling my flu jab due to lack of vaccine
Peter Birmingham
As one of the "at risk" (over 65) I had no problem whatsoever.
Doreen Richards, Berrow, Burnham on Sea

This furore is an excellent example of government spin. GPs ordered their stocks last year. The government increased the categories of patients who should receive the vaccine in May of this year. Then the flu scare started - doesn't anyone remember what happened when a salt shortage scare happened? Everyone dashed in to the supermarkets and cleared the shelves of salt. This is exactly what happened with flu demand. The government are looking for scapegoats but if they looked at the facts instead of shooting from the hip they might stop apportioning blame on the GPs.
Jane Solomon, Marlow

It has been said that you can judge a society by the way it treats its weakest members
Vanessa Windust
I have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease [COPD] - medical term for a bad chest. Each year for some years I have automatically had a flu jab. About two weeks ago I received a telephone call from my GP's surgery cancelling my flu jab appointment due to lack of vaccine. I was told that I would be called as soon as the vaccine became available. I'm still waiting!
Peter Birmingham, Cowbridge

I am a young man with asthma and I mark my calendar to remind me to get a flu jab in October as come December my surgery has run out of stock. I have a Spanish friend who says the situation is the same in Spain, as I believe it is for the whole of Europe and indeed the rest of the world. This seems to be the reality of flu vaccination and this year is no different. Maybe we should all make sure the most vulnerable get vaccinated as soon as it becomes available rather than the healthy being selfish and using up the stock prematurely. As for companies providing free jabs, I suspect this is an attempt to reduce all sick leave and not specifically designed to protect at-risk employees! We could instead just hope that complaining that there's not enough vaccine for everyone will make the world produce, and our government buy, more stock next year!
Julian Dearlove, Manchester

When I was 79 I asked for the pneumonia jab but was asked to come back in six months when I was 80
James Nicholl
It has been said that you can judge a society by the way it treats its weakest members. Since the current government came into power, it has worked unceasingly at destroying the network of support to the old, sick and helpless. Finance now means more than lives. I know nothing of politics but I know what I see. Blair has let finances dictate who can live and who can die. The welfare state took a lot of work to finally be implemented; I never thought a Labour government would go to such lengths to destroy it. If you cannot afford private health services then you may as well give up and die.
Vanessa Windust, Senghenydd, Wales

This year my wife and I both had our flu jabs as normal. Two years ago when I was 79 I asked for the pneumonia jab but was asked to come back in six months when I was 80. Our treatment is first class and they were right to point out the rules. The statistic BBC commentators ignore is 1996 - six million inoculations; 2005 - 13 million. I wasn't aware our population of oldies had doubled!
James Nicholl, Taunton

I have not been able to get hold of it from my GP, even at my own expense
Rosemary Pringle
The Wendover Health Centre advertised several "flu jab" days. By chance, on one of those days, I visited the centre to collect a prescription. A queue of people were waiting for jabs. I asked if I could have a flu jab. The receptionist asked if I was over 65, suffered from asthma or had several other conditions. When I replied "no" to all, I was offered a jab for 10. It is obvious to me that the centre was keen to use their stocks and not be left with any. They probably justified their action by feeling that they had supported the target/high risk group by organising jab days. These days would attract most of the target/high risk group, and a bit of profit from those that paid was very acceptable. I feel that the stocks ordered by the practices across the UK should have been backed up by government reserve stocks of 10-20% extra. Doctors are people. Their decisions follow the same financial pressures as the rest of us. No one wants money thrown away at the end of the flu season.
Derf Mockford, Wendover

I am sick of hearing the term "worried well". Sure, the flu won't kill us, but wouldn't it be better if we too managed to avoid it? I have not been able to get hold of it from my GP, even at my own expense.
Rosemary Pringle

I was told that I will no longer be having a jab until I reach 65 in three years time
Martin Donne
My medical practice advertises flu jab availability a while ahead and the "service" by the practice nurse is quick and to appointment time. From media reports, it would seem a number of practices are not run as efficiently. Your programme should investigate further to discover why!
Ed Down, Salford City

I'm not in an at-risk group but have had no problem getting a flu jab from my GP. I had to wait a few weeks for supplies to come but was given an appointment time and received the jab today.
Nigel Cooke, Bristol

My wife and I have both had the flu jab (this year and for several years past). We are both over 65 and our health centre writes to us individually in September each year, offering the service, as we are in the high risk group. We have also both had a pneumonia jab (a once only vaccination), advised for over 65s. Thus anyone in high risk groups is given priority, and only if you don't take it up promptly would it be offered to others.
R M Hancock, Raglan

I have had a flu jab for the last three years since developing high blood pressure and an irregular heartbeat. This year, although I received a jab, I was told that I will no longer be having a jab until I reach 65 in three years time. I am not in a vulnerable category, I was told.
Martin Donne, Chepstow

I noticed in the administrative office of an NHS/Social Service community team office, where I was based a few weeks ago, that admin staff were passing round leaflets promoting the availability of flu jabs for NHS staff, but I don't believe any of these particular NHS/Social Service staff were front line staff. I wonder how many others in this situation have asked for the jab from their GP - I don't suppose a GP would be allowed to turn them down. Surely this needs to be monitored, as the facility may be being inappropriately used, albeit entirely unintentionally, in the sense that staff were just taking up a recommendation.
Jessica Wheeler, Cambridge

My husband is 63, diabetic and has heart problems. His appointment for his flu jab in October was made by his Medical Centre last April, as was everyone else on the "at risk" register. If all practices followed this procedure, then everyone who needs the jab is covered.
Hilary Evans, Merthyr Tydfil

I am 60. Two years ago I had pneumonia. For the last two winters I was advised to have the flu jab, which I did. I booked to have it today but was told by the doctor's receptionist that I am not in the priority group. Similarly, my wife has had the jab for the last three years as she has an inhaler for temporary asthma. She too was refused this time. My son-in-law was given the flu jab by his company last week as routine every year. He is a healthy 32 year old!
Mike Whitehouse, Harleston

We felt that there are more 'needy' people for whom the jab would be much more effective and useful
Paul Wilkinson
I got a jab provided by my company. My company has many contacts with doctors, and one of them came one day with jabs saying that whoever wanted one could get it (as he does every year, apparently). Not knowing of shortages at that time, I volunteered. So, for me, the experience has been quite the opposite - not particularly wanting one, the offer for a jab "fell from the sky" and having at the time no reason to decline it I got vaccinated. Of course, in view of today's shortage, I do feel a bit bad. But hopefully it will stop me bringing flu home to my asthmatic wife and newborn baby (due in December!).
Thomas, London

I was never in favour of the flu shot but then one did not have a choice in the navy. Very often I came down with all the flu symptoms and was very ill anyway.
Henryk Zaleski, Horten

A few weeks ago both my flatmate and I were sent a letter from our local surgery inviting us to take up the flu jab. We both declined as we are both healthy, young(ish) men and we felt that there are more "needy" people for whom the jab would be much more effective and useful. We both wondered why we were sent the offer of a flu jab.
Paul Wilkinson, London

Perhaps we are the lucky ones, but we came back from holiday, went to the surgery and were immediately accommodated.
Maureen Woolley, Potton

I was jabbed through the car window
Dave Lloyd
I'm diabetic and over 65 - absolutely no problems whatsoever. My wife of a similar age had no problems either.
Malcolm Gasper, Ewhurst

My employer arranged for all employees to get a free flu jab. There was a delay in getting enough jabs, but today the nurse came and there were more than enough for everyone who wanted one. Although I don't know how many actually opted for the jab, I'm pretty certain that no one at the company (about 200) would fall into the "vulnerable" category.
John Smith, London

After a missed nurse-visit-by-chance the other week, together with many computer faxes and phone calls, the end result was a meeting with the practise nurse in the surgery car park at the beginning of the week: I was jabbed through the car window (but I am a wheelchair user). Simple as that.
Dave Lloyd, Ormskirk



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