Flu vaccine shortages are set to continue for at least the next couple of weeks, the French pharmacy trade body says.
Health ministry officials launched a high-profile campaign to encourage people to get vaccinated in mid-October, with the government ordering two million extra doses to cater for more demand due to the coronavirus pandemic.
However, pharmacies around the country are still facing shortages.
“We estimate that 80% of pharmacies have not got any anti-flu vaccine left, and we have no insight as to when deliveries will resume,” a spokeswoman for the Union des Syndicats de Pharmaciens d’Officine (USPO) told The Connexion.
“Apparently eight million doses have already been sold of around 15 million that were ordered, so in theory there should be more delivered soon, but our members have not been able to obtain any information about where and when.”
She added: “We hope the situation will improve in the next couple of weeks but have no insights or timetable.”
Connexion readers have told of visiting numerous pharmacies trying to get vaccines, only to be turned away with no-one able to say when new stocks will arrive.
One reader, aged 72, from Charente department who received a coupon said both his usual pharmacy and the pharmacy next door to his doctor’s cabinet had run out and did not know when new stocks would arrive.
“They had already contacted other pharmacies in the area, no-one has stock, no-one knows when they will receive more,” he wrote.
“I am 72 next week, I am a little concerned that if maybe I contract flu and Covid-19 at the same time then I may not see 73…”
Vaccines have to be kept cold, and are usually delivered to rural pharmacies in refrigerated vans which make weekly deliveries of temperature-sensitive medicines.
Other medicines and medical stocks, which do not have to be kept cold, are usually delivered daily.
All people over 65, and people with conditions likely to make them more at risk from flu --chronic illnesses of the lungs, heart, and kidneys, obese people with a body mass index of over 40 kg/m2, pregnant women, and households with babies under six months old or with people with depressed immunity systems -- receive a coupon for free flu vaccinations.
All workers in the health sector also receive free vaccinations.
The vaccinations can usually be bought over the counter for around €6 by the rest of the population but this year over-the-counter sales have been banned until December, so that priority cases with coupons, can be served first.
The French health ministry when asked if it knew when vaccine deliveries were likely to resume to rural areas, said it was trying to find someone who could clarify the situation but was having difficulty getting through to them.
The USPO spokeswoman said the same measures used to reduce the risk of contracting Covid-19, washing hands often, not shaking hands, keeping a distance from other people and wearing a mask, also reduced the risk of catching flu.