Vaccine shortage warning

Published 12th September 2017

Sandwell health experts have expressed serious concerns about the shortage of vital vaccines available to local people.

Councillor Elaine Costigan, cabinet member for public health and protection, has written to Jeremy Hunt, Secretary of State for Health, to highlight difficulties facing local people due to a critical shortage of much-needed vaccines.  

She said: “We regularly experience drug shortages which can have a major impact on our ability to protect and treat local patients and residents.

“We would like to know what the government is doing to ensure that there is resilience being built into the supply chains to prevent these shortages occurring.

“I have sent a letter to Jeremy Hunt requesting urgent attention be given to this matter.”

In recent years, the supply of important vaccinations to the NHS has become increasingly volatile and since 2014 there has been a shortage of BCG vaccination against TB in Sandwell.

The local health experts claim that this puts local newborns at increased risk of neonatal TB meningitis.

And they point out that this is critical because Sandwell local authority area has one of the highest incidence of TB in the region.

This means that newborns in Sandwell are more at risk than those in the rest of the country.

More recently, Hepatitis A and B vaccine shortages have led to restrictions on who can receive these vaccinations, putting some of Sandwell’s most vulnerable residents at increased risk of infection.

Non-availability of vaccination means not all people travelling to high incidence countries are protected and without protection may result in local transmission and outbreaks on return to the UK.

Officers highlight the fact that the likelihood of a Hepatitis B outbreak is further increased because vaccination of household contacts of a diagnosed case has now been de-prioritised due to vaccine shortages.