Britain short of flu vaccine as death toll mounts

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Britain's government said Thursday it had flu vaccine shortages in certain regions as it told some hospitals to postpone operations to free up beds for a wave of influenza patients.

The order came as the Health Protection Agency said the total death toll from flu this season had gone up by 11 in the past week to 50.

The Department of Health insists there is "no national shortage" of vaccines, but admitted that some areas were experiencing "local supply issues".

Britain has no central stockpile and vaccines are ordered every year by doctors' surgeries.

According to the UK Vaccine Industry Group, 14.7 million doses of flu vaccine have been delivered across Britain, which has a population of around 62 million.

Hospitals with specialist respiratory centres providing intensive care have been asked to cancel planned operations.

"The National Health Service continues to monitor the situation carefully and we are taking further steps to increase the number of beds available," said a spokeswoman for the National Specialised Commissioning Team.

Of the 50 deaths, 45 were from swine flu, with the remaining five from the type B strain.

Five of the cases were aged under five, with eight cases aged five to 14.

© 2011 AFP

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