Government “incompetence” is to blame for the shortage of flu vaccines, the shadow business minister has told Sky News.
Speaking on Sky News Breakfast, Seema Malhotra said the government needs to “get a grip” on the “supply chain crisis” that is hitting the country.
On Saturday, the largest provider of flu vaccines to the UK, Seqirus, confirmed there could be delays of up to two weeks in England and Wales with many appointments having to be rescheduled.
The MP for Feltham and Heston said she was “really shocked” to hear about the supply chain issues, claiming the “government has been warned” about it previously.
She said: “We have been seeing it manifest itself with the empty shelves in our supermarkets, with Nando’s not able to get the chicken that it needs in restaurants, with Iceland now warning about shortages for Christmas.
“This is a crisis that has been going on for some time and which the government absolutely needs to get a grip on.
“It has been affecting our economic recovery and it’s now affecting consumer prices, and today we see this very, very worrying story about how this incompetence from the government, and it is incompetence, is now affecting the supply of flu vaccines and our public health.”
The delay in jab deliveries has been blamed by Seqirus on “unforeseen challenges linked with road freight delays”, but it is not clear if the issues are related to the shortage of lorry drivers that has led to supermarkets running out of certain products.
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Ms Malhotra has called for a government minister to be put in charge of dealing with the supply chain crisis, working across departments, including the Department for Transport.
“There needs to be a lot of thinking sector by sector as well but this isn’t a new crisis and its just pretty shocking that 18 months after the government was already warned, and parliamentary questions were being asked about the shortage of heavy goods vehicles drivers, that this shortage has almost doubled to 90,000 and is now affecting every part of our economy”, she said.
She added that there is no “quick fix” but some “short-term measures” to help deal with the problem need to be looked at and a backlog of driving tests needs to be addressed.
“There is no plan the government has had to address this and tens of thousands have left the profession but in addition, we think it is really important that the government heeds the call of industry and refers the issue of driver shortages to the Migration Advisory Committee, to ask the question and give advice, about whether the occupation should be added to the shortage occupation list,” Ms Malhotra added.
Meanwhile, the deputy chair of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) said the delay of flu vaccine deliveries is “of concern to GPs” amid fears over high influenza levels.
Professor Anthony Harnden told BBC Breakfast that it is “quite possible” the UK will see a “high instance of influenza this year”, so it is “really important” people get the jab as soon as possible.
He said: “It is of concern that there are delays, but hopefully this will be corrected soon and we’ll get on in general practices, we always do.”