Pharmacy told to wait two weeks for more flu vaccine
A pharmacist who ordered supplies of 20 flu vaccines from the HSE on January 6 was told they would not arrive for two weeks - despite the current outbreak.
Ultan Molloy, who runs a pharmacy in Ballindine, Co Mayo, had to take to social media, tweeting Health Minister Simon Harris to get a more urgent response, but the vaccines will still not be delivered until next Monday.
"The contract with the HSE is that there are monthly deliveries of vaccines. The vaccine is still the best way to get protection from the flu. But it takes about two weeks to kick in so any delay in the middle of a critical time is not ideal," he said, adding that he already gets twice-a-day deliveries of other medicines from the HSE.
"The HSE should invest more in its delivery service."
A spokeswoman for the HSE said flu vaccines were available from the HSE National Cold Chain Service (NCCS) and were delivered as part of the scheduled monthly deliveries outlined on the calendar provided in the online vaccine ordering system.
As always during the flu vaccine season, additional routine deliveries are made so pharmacies were entitled to fortnightly deliveries from September to December 2017. This is when the majority of flu vaccines are distributed.
In anticipation of a potential surge in flu activity after Christmas, from the beginning of December the message was to order sufficient stocks.
It was placed on the online vaccine ordering system, in the National Immunisation Office (NIO) Newsletter, and via social media.
It said: "Monthly vaccine deliveries restart in January, so remember to order sufficient stocks of flu vaccine in December in case there is a surge in demand in the new year as happened last season."
However, a number of pharmacies are now requesting emergency deliveries in advance of their routine scheduled delivery date.
"The NIO is working with the NCCS who are accommodating these requests which have been delivered within three working days of their ordering date, if their scheduled date is later in the month. These emergency deliveries incur significant extra cost to the HSE," she said.
To date, the HSE NCCS has distributed more than 930,000 doses of flu vaccine - 125,000 more doses compared to this time last season. Pharmacies have received 30,000 more doses than last year.