Health chiefs in Bedford urged to get their act together on carers’ flu vaccinations

Carers have been getting mixed messages on the number of days they should leave between getting the flu jab and the pending covid vaccination, a meeting heard.

And Bedford Borough Council’s health and wellbeing board was told that there have been cases of people, including care home workers, giving up after being shunted between GP surgeries and pharmacies, unable to get their annual flu jabs.

“It’s really, really critical in terms of the care staff, because I’ve been given a different, shorter indication. I’d heard it was five days,” said Kate Walker, the council’s director of adult’s services at Wednesday’s meeting.

And she added that care workers had even been turned away because it wasn’t their turn.

Even during the course of the meeting a senior member of the Bedfordshire, Luton and Milton Keynes (BLMK) clinical commissioning collaborative quoted a different number of days to leave between getting the flu jab and then the covid vaccination.

Nicky Poulain, the director of primary care, first said: “I think it’s 14 days but things are changing.”

Before the end of the meeting she clarified the current advice as seven days.

“I think our party line is,” she said, “encourage anyone to have the flu vaccination.

Bedford mayor Dave Hodgson

“Don’t not have the flu jab thinking you might not be able to have your covid jab. Have your flu. Things do change, if it changes we will make sure that information is cascaded.”

Bedford mayor Dave Hodgson (Lib Dem) warned that the void of accurate information is “filled by people making stuff up.”

He added: “We will now have carers who believe they are going to be vaccinated in the next few days, deciding not to have the flu vaccine, because they are waiting for the covid vaccine.

“We need to have a very very clear message.”

He suggested that carers could get their flu jab before the end of next week and then have their covid jab after that.

Health leaders we also blasted for not being able to give accurate information to be able to tell people where the supplies of flu vaccines were.

Sanhita Chakrabarti, BLMK’s clinical lead, said up to date information had been difficult to get.

Local pharmacies were often branches of national organisations and they did not know when flu jab supplies were being delivered, she said. But the information is now coming through.

Mayor Hodgson said he had raised the issue before and added that he has never chaired a health and wellbeing board where they had hit flu vaccination targets.

He was told that the the picture was “better than in previous years” and that they expect the data to “improve into March.”

But Mr Hodgson said the main months for flu are January and February, at which point he was told the health system is doing its best to get the flu vaccine to as many people as possible.