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Possible flu outbreak, but no vaccine

Paul Hutchison MP - National Party Health Spokesman

23 March 2005

Possible flu outbreak, but no vaccine

Auckland GP Dr Nick Cooper has seen several patients today with classic flu symptoms of headache, fever, myalgia, cough, and rigours, but cannot get the flu vaccine for himself or his patients, says National’s Health spokesman, Paul Hutchison.

Dr Cooper called Health Minister Annette King’s office for help and was referred to the Ministry of Health, but could not get through to anyone in a position to help.

He also called GlaxoSmithKline, the company which came to the Government’s rescue with supplies of effective flu vaccine, to see if they could sell him some. They told him Pharmac and the Ministry of Health had “tied up” all the available vaccine.

Dr Hutchison says a GP who is on the frontline, who sees a possible outbreak of the flu in his patients, should be able to get immediate help from the Minister and the Ministry. Predictably, this has not happened, he says.

Dr Cooper described Pharmac and the Ministry of Health officials as dithering while those at the coalface are terribly worried about the vulnerable elderly filling up hospital beds.

Dr Hutchison says he couldn’t agree more.

“It is absolutely vital that health professionals get the vaccine so they can nip this in the bud and so they can carry on working.

“If an outbreak is occurring, the vaccine is needed immediately. Ms King’s inaction and underplaying of the issue has delayed the vaccine and she must be held responsible.

“The lack of security of supply of flu vaccine is nothing short of a scandal,” says Dr Hutchison.


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