However, with demand up tenfold on the same time last year – according to Lloyds – pharmacies and GP surgeries are running out of their first batch of jabs before they get restocked.
Older people require a special “adjuvanted” vaccine to stimulate their immune systems, which become less reactive with age.
Each GP surgery is responsible for ordering its own stock of flu jabs from manufacturers in the February of the previous winter. The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) controls a central emergency stockpile ordered directly from the pharmaceutical companies.
While The Telegraph understands that none of this has yet been made available to GP surgeries, officials are planning to publish instructions to practices on how to apply for the standby jabs.
Dr. George Kassianos, the national immunisation spokesman for the RCGP, said: “From the middle of December, we usually see the influenza case rate rising. It then peaks in January or February before coming down. It is essential that at-risk groups are vaccinated in September, October or November. We take it for granted that everyone is going to get a vaccine, but actually not everyone can have one all at once.”
Graham Slesser, a 65-year-old accountant from Doncaster, tried to book a flu jab at his local GP on Monday, having been turned away by his high street pharmacy.
“I was told there were 200 people ahead of me in the queue and that I might not get an appointment until the end of October,” he told The Telegraph. “I have an existing issue with my heart rate and I am extremely worried about catching flu and coronavirus.
“The powers that be knew this was coming – they encouraged everyone to go off and get vaccinated. Now there’s a shortage.”
Sir Simon Stevens, the chief executive of NHS England, said it would be “age apartheid” to ask the over-65s to shield in order to minimise the impact of a second virus wave (watch Boris Johnson talk about the resurgence of the virus in the video below).