Coronavirus: UK restricts flu vaccine exports to protect supplies

·2-min read

Exports of flu vaccine from the UK will be restricted to protect supplies, the government has announced.

It comes amid an increase in global demand during the coronavirus pandemic.

A statement from the Department of Health and Social Care said: "There is sufficient national supply of flu vaccine, with deliveries to providers continuing over the coming months.

"The Department of Health and Social Care has taken this action in response to high demand for the flu vaccine from other countries to mitigate against the risk of these products being exported."

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: "We will always act to ensure that the medicines and vaccines destined for UK patients are protected and get to those who need them.

"This action will protect our supply of flu vaccinations, as part of our plans to give 30 million the flu vaccine ahead of this unprecedented winter."

Last month, the World Health Organisation (WHO) reported that countries in the northern hemisphere were having difficulties sourcing flu vaccines.

It said vulnerable people and health workers should be prioritised in the event of any shortages.

People who get priority for the NHS jab include over 65s, those with underlying health conditions such as lung disease or diabetes, and pregnant women.

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UK retailer Boots said in September it was no longer taking bookings for the flu jab "due to unprecedented demand".

However, this year in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, the flu vaccine will be offered for the first time to the over-50s, and the over-55s in Scotland.

The Department for Health and Social Care is recommending that children aged 2-11 and anyone who is the main carer of an older or disabled person - or lives in a house with someone shielding - receives it.

But as coronavirus continues to surge in the UK, keeping up with demand is becoming an issue.