Pensioners could face severe delays getting a flu vaccine this winter, with a surge in demand caused by the coronavirus pandemic leading to shortages.
High street pharmacies Boots and Lloyds have decided to suspend bookings for those aged 65 and over at branches across the UK.
Meanwhile, waiting lists at some GP surgeries are at high levels, leading to a potential several week wait for the jab for the elderly.
It means that those aged 65 or above are facing the prospect of being without a flu vaccine over the winter, despite the government promising that, as the most vulnerable, they would be at the front of the queue.
Boots and Lloyds have decided to suspend bookings for those aged 65 and over at branches across the UK amid a supply shortage (stock)
Public Health England is aiming to immunise 30 million Britons this winter, the largest flu vaccination programmer ever undertaken in the UK.
It comes after a PHE report revealed that coronavirus patients were almost twice as likely to die if they caught the flu at the same
The vaccination programme is open to all over 50s, for the first time, in an attempt to immunise as much of the population as possible.
Officials have previously insisted that pensioners remained a priority - despite the sheer scale of the project meaning that it would have to be rolled out in stages.
Greg Clark, chairman of the Commons science committee, told The Daily Telegraph: 'Suppressing the flu helps fight Covid by reducing the number of people with Covid-like symptoms who would need to isolate and be tested, and by reducing the severity of the impact on those who do get Covid. It is essential as many people as possible are able to get a flu jab.'
Launching the vaccination programme last week, Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, the deputy chief medical officer for England, said: 'The emphasis has always got to be on the high-risk groups.'
It means that those aged 65 or above are facing the prospect of being without a flu vaccine over the winter (stock)
However, surging demand has led to pharmacies already running out of their first batch of vaccinations.
Demand is up tenfold on last year, with surgeries struggling to ensure the PHE target is met.
The Department of Health and Social Care controls an emergency stockpile of jabs but this has yet to have been made available to surgeries.
This is expected to change in the coming weeks.
Graham Slesser, a 65-year-old accountant from Doncaster, tried to book a flu jab from his local GP yesterday, having been turned away by his high street pharmacy.
He said: 'I was told there were 200 people ahead of me and I might not get an appointment until the end of October.'