Flu jab shortage warning as Boots halts all bookings

24 September 2020, 11:23 | Updated: 24 September 2020, 15:47

Boots has suspended its flu jab booking service
Boots has suspended its flu jab booking service. Picture: PA
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

Chemist Boots has halted all bookings for seasonal winter flu jabs due to "unprecedented demand" amid concerns over a possible national shortage.

A statement on the Boots booking site today reads: "Due to unprecedented demand for flu vaccinations this year and stock availability we have had to suspend bookings.

"We are working hard to acquire additional stock of the flu vaccine so that we are able to make appointments available again."

It applies to flu jab bookings for people of all ages.

People trying to book with Superdrug and Lloyds Pharmacy also reported issues, with both saying jabs had been cancelled due to a surge in demand.

The message posted on the Boots website today
The message posted on the Boots website today. Picture: Boots

A spokeswoman for Lloyds Pharmacy sought to reassure people that there are sufficient vaccines available for those who have booked appointments.

"We have seen unprecedented demand for flu vaccines this year. In the first week of flu season we have already vaccinated 10 times more people compared to last year," the spokeswoman told LBC.

She added: "We are currently making improvements to our online booking to cope with the increased demand and we are asking any new customers to provide us with their contact details if they wish to have a flu vaccination so that we can contact them with an exclusive window to book their appointment online.

"This is a constantly evolving situation but we would like to assure our patients who have registered their information with us that appointments are available and will become available over the coming days."

Earlier this week Boots paused bookings as it "monitored stock levels," telling LBC in a statement: "We know that this year, our customers have been more conscious than ever about protecting the health of themselves and their families, and protecting against flu has been front of mind for many of us.

“As a result, we have seen more people than ever booking early to get their flu vaccinations. We have been closely monitoring our stock levels, and made the decision this weekend to pause taking new bookings for our private and NHS under 65s Flu Vaccination Services.

"This is to make sure we can vaccinate the patients who have already booked their appointments with us.  “We are still able to continue supporting the NHS over 65s Flu Vaccination Service due to stock availability of the trivalent vaccination, which the NHS recommends for people aged 65 and over.”

But the Boots service was halted entirely today.

However, Health Secretary Matt Hancock told Sky News earlier today: “We have record amounts of flu vaccine in the country.

“I’m also very pleased to see that having launched the flu programme this week we have record amounts of demand for it, that is a very good thing.

“In the first instance, the flu vaccine must go to the clinically most vulnerable which is the over 65s and those with other health conditions.

“But then we intend to roll it out more broadly after that.”

The Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) said pharmacies have had to reduce the number of vaccinations that are being carried out.

Robbie Turner, RPS Director of Pharmacy, said: “This year many more people are anticipating receiving a flu vaccination and they need assurance that sufficient stocks are available.

“We will continue to talk with government on the supply of vaccines, and how pharmacists can support those who are most at risk.”

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