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Suffolk only getting 1 in 6 pneumonia vaccines needed amid global shortage

PUBLISHED: 16:20 10 September 2020 | UPDATED: 16:20 10 September 2020

Pneumonia and Covid-19 symptoms can be similar, but the pneumonia jabs do not vaccinate against coronavirus. Picture: GETTY IMAGES/ISTOCK PHOTO

Pneumonia and Covid-19 symptoms can be similar, but the pneumonia jabs do not vaccinate against coronavirus. Picture: GETTY IMAGES/ISTOCK PHOTO

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Suffolk GP surgeries are receiving just one sixth of the pneumonia vaccines they need, it has emerged.

Dr Nicholas Rayner, executive chairman at Suffolk Primary Care, said shortages of pneumonia vaccines had been an issue for a couple of years. Picture: JAMES FLETCHER PHOTOGRAPHYDr Nicholas Rayner, executive chairman at Suffolk Primary Care, said shortages of pneumonia vaccines had been an issue for a couple of years. Picture: JAMES FLETCHER PHOTOGRAPHY

Supply of flu and pneumonia jabs were questioned at Suffolk’s health scrutiny committee in July, in which it emerged that the region could be short of up to 400,000 flu vaccines this winter.

But supply issues with the pneumonia vaccines have meant that Suffolk GP surgeries are not getting the numbers they are requesting.

MORE: Flu jab shortage could be up to 400,000 in East Anglia this winter

West Suffolk councillor Margaret Marks, who sits on the health scrutiny board, said: “I wrote to the CCG and asked for clarity and have been informed that already there are insufficient stocks to fulfil the orders – if 30 are requested five are being delivered.

“This is not only extremely worrying for patients but also forms part of the CQC [Care Quality Commission] inspection requirement to have the vaccinations up to date, and surgeries are constantly criticised by Public Health England for not achieving their inoculation targets.

“It feels very much that right and left hand work in opposition and this creates a poor public perception of the work of our local GP surgeries.

“There are many patients over 65 who still await a pneumonia vaccination – again these are made in very small batches and allocation is fragmented and inadequate to meet demand.”

Unlike flu vaccines, the pneumonia inoculation only needs a single lifetime jab and is prioritised for those aged 65+ or in at risk categories.

The Department for Health said that there are two different vaccines for pneumonia – one for children and one for adults.

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The children’s vaccine does not have supply issues, but the adult vaccine, called Pneumovax 23 (PPV23), has been an issue for a number of years.

That has included a lack of manufacturers globally and another PPV23 vaccine being discontinued, resulting in an increase in demand globally on fewer suppliers.

Clinical commissioning groups are not involved in procuring the vaccine, with GPs sourcing it directly from their wholesaler.

Dr Nick Rayner, executive chairman at Suffolk Primary Care, said that the current position was understood to be that the vaccine was available to order, but availability was a problem which “comes and goes throughout the year”.

He said: “There has certainly been an issue getting pneumonia vaccines to practices for a couple of years now.

“Public Health England and the Royal College of GPs have previously advised ordering when available and spreading out vaccinations throughout the year.

“However, there have been prolonged periods where none are available to order and lists of eligible patients need to be kept to call in when available, which is leading to inconvenience and some patients going unprotected for some time.”

However, there were also fears that because of the coronavirus pandemic more people may be requesting jabs this year.

While some of the symptoms such as high temperatures, difficulty breathing and persistent coughing are common across both conditions, the pneumonia vaccine does not protect against Covid-19.

A Department for Health spokeswoman added: “We are aware of intermittent supply issues affecting the adult pneumonia vaccine and we are doing everything we can to ensure patients have access to safe and effective vaccines.

“Public Health England has provided comprehensive guidance for clinicians during this time and we continue to work closely with a range of groups in this area.”


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