Delays in delivering seasonal flu vaccines are caused by lorry driver shortages, one of UK’s biggest suppliers has said.
Seqirus, one of the world’s largest vaccine companies providing for GP practices and pharmacies in England and Wales, said the delays would mean up to two weeks’ longer waits.
But this will heavily impact on NHS GP surgeries, a professional body representing GPs has warned.
Dr Gary Howsam, vice chairman of the Royal College of GPs, said even two weeks’ delays are going to have a massive impact on practices and patients.
He told the BBC: “With more than 36 million people eligible for the flu vaccine on the NHS this year, GPs need the supply chain to run like clockwork.”
Howsam said GPs are “already under enormous pressure” to provide the Covid booster jabs alongside everything else needed throughout the winter season – and that this means vulnerable people need to get their vaccines “as early into the flu season as possible”.
He urged ministers to “urgently get a grip”, adding the GPs are already anxious about shortages of blood test tubes.
Last week it emerged medical professionals are being put in a “terrible, unenviable position” by having to choose who gets blood tests, the British Medical Association said.
In July, the government announced it would relax tests for lorry drivers in an effort to tackle EU drivers shortages caused by Brexit.
And transport secretary Grant Shapps announced a “temporary extension” of drivers’ working hours to make up for shortages of tens of thousands of HGV drivers.
Both measures have sparked fears over the safety of UK roads, but were hailed as a benefit from “increased post-Brexit sovereignty”, according to The Independent – whilst supermarkets shelves have been facing severe shortages because deliveries cannot be made on time.
But although Shapps admitted the road freight sector faces “historic shortages”, he said: “I do not support using foreign labour to tackle a long-standing issue in the haulage industry.”
Shapps insisted leaving the European Union has provided the UK with the “opportunity to introduce a new immigration system while building a more resilient domestic workforce”.
In response, Labour’s Andrew Adonis said the transport secretary “would rather have HGV driver shortages, and thus food shortages in the shops, than allow more EU truck drivers.”
“Incredible Brexit blinkers,” he added.
Meanwhile, last month a Romanian lorry driver told The London Economic why he is thinking of following in the footsteps of his colleagues and moving back to Romania to work across Europe.
Viorel Alexandru Onu said he thinks his previous work conditions were better than the ones he has in the UK.
And he added being a lorry driver requires sacrifices and is not “necessarily a pleasure to do”.