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Ready for another round of the annual flu wars?

By Dr Livingstone

30 Jun 2020

Our GP blogger Dr Livingstone wonders if the flu vaccination season could be more fractious this year?

Whether we’re a GP or a pharmacist, we’re probably used to it by now. Flu wars, I mean. That’s what should be an annual co-ordinated public health effort to vaccinate the vulnerable, turned into what could be seen as an unseemly, barely professional and financially driven patient-grab.

Neither side is proud of this annual event, but it’s what we’re reduced to when the powers-that-be convert clinical care into a competition.

There are added considerations this year, and they could make the annual skirmishes rather more complicated. In fact, the way things are going, GPs and pharmacists could end up fighting each other with one arm, while fending off patients with the other. Because several fronts are combining to create the perfect flu-jab storm.

First, there has been a worldwide surge in demand leading to a potential vaccine shortage. Second, mid/post-Covid, public interest and uptake is likely to soar. And third, there are rumours that, very late in the day, the age criteria for the flu jab may be lowered from 65 to 50.

So, at least we’re spared the annual angst about potential over-ordering. If the storm does hit, the flu jab cupboard could be bare within a month or two. Of course, we’ll get government reassurances about there being adequate supply. Presumably, the huge number of extra flu jabs required will be sourced from the same magic tree that have proved so reliable in growing PPE, antigen tests and money.

To avoid fisticuffs with furious, flu-jab-deprived patients, we’ll have to devise some kind of rationing system, because that’s the inevitable outcome when demand outstrips supply.

Or rather, let’s hope the Government does this, once it realises that it’s managed to stoke demand and stimulate unrealistic expectations. That way, unjabbed patients can blame politicians rather than primary care.

And while they’re at it, maybe the Government could inject some organisational common sense into the entire flu jab-fest by scrapping the need for us to compete for patients. Because this year, pharmacists and GPs are simply too knackered from fighting Covid-19 to bother with fighting each other.

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