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Last Updated: Monday, 4 October, 2004, 17:52 GMT 18:52 UK
Anger over flu jab shortage
HPA flu campaign
An advertising campaign was launched to promote the vaccine
Doctors in Northern Ireland are furious at the Department of Health's handling of a flu vaccine shortage, the British Medical Association has said.

Fears were raised last week that a distribution problem would mean the programme would have to be put back.

However, the department said last Thursday that it has managed to obtain 60,000 flu vaccines and vaccinations could begin this week as originally planned.

Despite this, BMA spokesman Dr Eugene Deeny said on Monday that doctors had still not been told how to get hold of additional supplies.

Dr Deeny said many clinics had to be cancelled because no vaccines were available to give out.

Speaking on the same day that a campaign was launched to encourage people to have their flu jab, Dr Deeny said the shortage was placing vulnerable people at risk.

Flu virus
The department insists enough vaccines will be available
"The number of vaccines which we have been told are available for our patients are miniscule compared to what we need," he said.

"For example, I have 900 patients at risk in my practice, but my community pharmacist said the maximum number she can give us this week is 40.

"I have to prioritise 900 at risk people down to 40 - this is beyond the judgement of Solomon."

He said he was angry at the lack of notice given by the Department of Health.

Chief Medical Officer Dr Etta Campbell accepted there may be some delays, but she said people should make an appointment anyway.

She said 100,000 vaccines would be in circulation by the end of this week and 250,000 flu jabs would be obtained in time to ensure the normal operation of the annual campaign.

"Patients should not be concerned - we will have plenty of vaccines well in time for the campaign when needed," she said.

"All those patients who need to be protected against flu will be protected."

BBC NI's Maggie Swarbrick reports
"Flu is a potentially serious illness"

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