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Friday, September 17, 1999 Published at 18:52 GMT 19:52 UK


UK: Scotland

Doctors angered by meningitis vaccine shortage

There are not enough vaccine doses to go around

Scottish GP's have described as "scandalous" the Government's inability to provide students with a vaccination against meningitis C.


BBC Scotland's Health Correspondent Abeer Parkes reports on the vaccine shortage
Despite promises that it would be available by the start of the university year, it has now emerged a shortage of supplies will cause a two month delay.

It means children in the one to 14 age group will not be offered the vaccination until March next year.

There are about 100,000 students in Scotland, yet just 6,000 doses of the vaccine.

Turned away

A further 17,000 doses are expected to arrive in the country next week but it will not be until the end of November that all students have been given the opportunity to be immunised.


Dr Kenneth Harden of the BMA's Scottish GPs' committee says students must get vaccinated
This is despite the government inviting them to visit their local GP and get the vaccine before starting the new academic year.

It seems that in the majority of cases, doctors up and down the country have had to turn them away.

Their representatives have described the situation as scandalous, saying if it were not so serious it would be farcical.

Shortages

The Scottish Centre for Infection and Environmental Health says it sympathises with everyone involved and has been scouring Europe to buy up any available supplies.

It hopes to have offered vaccines to all students and 15 to 17 year olds by the end of November.

But doctors say it is not just the meningitis vaccination that there are shortages of - they warn there are insufficient doses of TB and diphtheria vaccines.

The shortage is a UK wide problem and the GPs committee (GPC) of the British Medical Association has called on Health Secretary Frank Dobson to take immediate action to avert a crisis.

'Serious'

The Department of Health denied there was a shortage of the meningitis vaccine and blamed the problem with other jabs on manufacturers.

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."





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