FLU vaccines are being rationed across Helensburgh and Lomond due to supply shortages, sparking outrage among GPs and elderly patients.

Hundreds of the most elderly and vulnerable residents in the area will have to wait weeks before the vaccines are available.

GPs and politicians have demanded answers as to how this could happen while the government offered reassurances that patients were still protected by their previous flu jabs.

The Scottish Government announced at the turn of the year that a new, more effective vaccination – called adjuvanted trivalent influenza vaccination (aTIV) - would be issued for everyone over the age of 65.

But a failure to order enough stock in time for this winter’s vaccination programme has led to vulnerable patients not yet receiving vital jabs and surgeries carefully monitoring the supplies they do have, in fear of them running out completely.

A spokesperson for Helensburgh Medical Centre (HMC) told the Advertiser: “We can’t run any clinics just now. We have 600 people waiting to get vaccinated.

“We’re really disappointed and this isn’t just restricted to our own area, it’s nationwide.

“Patients are angry, they think it is us that’s doing it and it’s taking up a lot of our time dealing with complaints.

“They are not getting protected from life threatening diseases.

“They are being told they can’t get it, but if they walk down the road to Boots and pay £12 they can get it there.

“If it’s a problem with the supplier, then maybe they shouldn’t have gone with that supplier in the first place. It’s not new to them. As soon as we get the vaccine in, we will book patients in. But the problem is when will we get it?”

It is estimated that a quarter of the population of Argyll and Bute are over 65, seven per cent higher than Scotland as a whole, and this significantly ageing demographic leaves Helensburgh residents particularly susceptible to the latest crisis.

The HMC spokesperson added: “We have already given out 40 per cent of the vaccine for over-75s in September, to approximately 390 people. We’ve been told that we will only be provided another 20 per cent until October 19, and then the remaining 40 per cent on November 16.

“Patients are obviously getting annoyed as they are wanting their vaccinations but we can’t give it to them.”

The British Medical Association also launched a scathing criticism of the lack of preparation, with BMA Scotland’s chairman, Dr Lewis Morrison, saying: “Last winter we saw a large number of fragile older people admitted with chest problems who turned out after tests to have had a form of flu, which was then complicated by secondary bacterial infections.

“Not only do these admissions sometimes lead to very serious illness and deaths, many of these patients are so seriously ill that they need weeks of further recovery in hospital, and some may not get home again at all after that.

“Of course, we hope that the vaccine supplied this year is effective and it is important to emphasise that people should get their flu jab.

“But there are legitimate questions to be asked on how the position that we see in Scotland has arisen.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “In line with expert clinical advice, the aTIV vaccine will be offered to people aged 75 and over this winter, as they have been identified as gaining the most benefit from the new vaccine. It will be rolled out to all those aged 65 and over from next winter.

“It is important to stress that the flu vaccine offered to those aged 65-74 this winter still provides flu protection.

“We would encourage everyone eligible across all age groups to take up the offer to protect themselves against the virus this winter.”

West of Scotland MSP Maurice Corry added: “My attention was drawn to this issue by concerned residents, despite the First Minister’s assurances there would be access to flu vaccines at an early stage.

“When it comes to health it is completely unacceptable.”

Meanwhile, Helensburgh and Lomond MSP Jackie Baillie commented: “Older people and families right across Scotland will rightly be concerned that they are not receiving the same flu vaccines as their counterparts in England.

“I am sure that members of the public will find it bizarre that the Scottish Government waited five months to begin searching for a supplier after the UK’s experts in vaccinations and immunisations told them to do so."