The Ministry of Health says there will be “more than enough” flu vaccines for the most vulnerable, with several hundred thousand doses to spare. Photo: NZME.

Flu vaccine shortage: “No need to panic,” says Nelson GP

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A Nelson GP says that local practices are currently receiving less than a quarter of the amount of flu vaccine than normal – but is urging people not to panic.

Dr Graham Loveridge, who is also the GP spokesperson for Nelson, says a nationwide shortage of the vaccine has meant they are being rationed around the country.

“We now have smaller and more regular amounts arriving and we’re working through the highest priority people first. Once or twice a week we are receiving less than a quarter of what we would normally be getting.”

High priority people include those over 65, pregnant women, others with underlying health conditions as well as frontline workers.

“Those that are not eligible will have to hold off until we have given it to the vulnerable group.”

Graham says there have been instances where GPs have had to cancel appointments for high priority cases, but he encourages those people to hold tight.

“It’s actually very safe for folk at the moment because the lockdown provision is also remarkably effective in stopping the spread of flu – which is one bright light in all of this, so there is no need to panic.

“More supplies are coming into the country all the time, so ultimately, we are able to give, but just not as quickly as we would like. It’s frustrating for GPs, but we’ll get there.”

The start of the nationwide influenza vaccination programme was brought forward this year to prioritise vaccination of the most vulnerable.

While the flu vaccine doesn’t protect against Covid-19, it does reduce the burden on the healthcare system.

A Ministry of Health spokesperson says there will be “more than enough” doses to vaccinate the most vulnerable, healthcare and other frontline workers, with several hundred thousand doses to spare.

“This year, 1.768 million doses will be available in New Zealand, and nearly 900,000 vaccines have been sent to providers so far this year. A shipment of 100,000 doses has just arrived and further shipments will be arriving over the coming weeks.”

And while they can’t speak for individual regions, there is now a process in place to ensure vaccines are distributed equitably across New Zealand, to enable those at greatest risk to get vaccinated as soon as possible.

“Demand for flu vaccine has been extremely high and we are aware that some practices have already run through their initial orders.

“While it’s great that so many New Zealanders are keen to protect themselves by getting the flu vaccine this year, we recognise the pressure that demand has placed on general practices.”

It has also placed pressure on pharmacies around the region, who say they’ve been busier than normal.

“We’ve definitely seen a higher demand for flu vaccines,” says Andrew McGlashen of Richmond’s McGlashen Pharmacy.

Sean Magee of Victory Square Pharmacy says they have been “steady” since the vaccines have become available.

“We have a limited amount, and many of our customers are over 65, so we have been reaching out to them.”