Vaccine shortages hit Amber Valley

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DOCTORS say swine flu vaccines will be prioritised to give to ‘at risk’ groups.

Dr John Granville, secretary for the Derbyshire’s Local Medical Committee, said a further shipment of the vaccine for the H1N1 strain, commonly known as swine flu, was expected in Amber Valley within the next few days.

But nationwide shortages will mean it will be prioritised to children under the age of five with pre-existing conditions such as asthma or diabetes as well as the elderly and pregnant women in the borough.

Dr Granville stressed that Amber Valley’s supply of the vaccine needed to be used sparingly as it takes an extremely long time to manufacture.

He said: “I think we may have to ride the winter out to an extent.

“The vaccine that we have coming in soon, we ordered back in 2010. What we are ordering at the moment, we are doing so to cope with next year’s situation.”

Heanor Memorial Hospital is reported to be experiencing high levels of patients due to the flu epidemic. It is also taking on patients from Babington Hospital which was shut due to an outbreak of the norovirus.

Chairman of the medical staff committee at Heanor hospital, Doctor Jim Noble, said the short vaccine supply was creating ‘a bit of a problem’.

He said: “We are only supposed to give it to the at-risk groups such as people with heart and liver disease, diabetes, pregnant women and the over 65s. But it can spread to practically anyone.”

All of the hospital’s current stock of swine flu vaccines have now been allocated.

Both Dr Noble and Dr Granville said that there are several strains of flu going round and behaving in an unpredictable manner.

Dr Noble said: “The problem is that the under tens this time of year have a lot of flu-like symptoms.

“Something expected to last six days is taking ten days. Parents are very sensibly worried about that.

“They’re phoning us up and asking if it’s okay – but we have to see them. Not that we mind that but the work load has doubled.”

General cases of flu bugs have risen in Amber Valley, according to Dr Granville, but he could not say whether there had been a specific rise in cases of the H1N1 strain.

He added that there had been an unusual rise in cases among younger people.

It is now believed that a strain of Swine Flu could have existed in the 1950s.

It means older generations could have developed a tolerance to the strain as a result of already having being exposed to it, said a health spokesman.