KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 12 — General practitioners are the last medical practitioners in line for flu vaccine supplies despite being the most accessible choice for Malaysians seeking the vaccination, the Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) said today.

MMA president Dr N. Ganabaskaran said GPs were the most available and easiest outlet for the public to obtain such vaccinations but were typically supplied after public and private hospitals.

This was exacerbated by the shortage of the influenza vaccine from the four major suppliers that has left many GPs without any stock of the vaccine, he added.

“Many GPs have called MMA to report this problem. Talk on this is also currently trending on various social media platforms with GPs voicing their displeasure about the supply problem with allegations that importance is given to the private hospitals while the fragmented but well distributed GP clinics are being sidelined.

“Each time when there is a vaccine shortage, the GPs are the last to receive supply if there are any stocks. Normally, priority is given to the public hospitals, followed by private hospitals and the leftovers to the 7,000 well distributed general practitioners that have faster and more convenient access for the rakyat,” said Dr Ganabaskaran in a statement.

“The GPs being the first point of contact and who are close to the community should be given priority by the suppliers but in reality, this is not happening.”

According to Dr Ganabaskaran, GP visits stand at 70 million annually, with almost 80 per cent of their patients being repeat visitors or regulars.

He hoped that the suppliers would be more prepared for sudden outbreaks of vaccinable diseases and to consider patients’ convenience and welfare over other factors.

“MMA hopes the suppliers will play a proactive role whenever there is an increase of certain illnesses that can be prevented by primary care practitioners.

“The needs of patients must come first. Convenience in access to healthcare will increase efficiency and ultimately, the standard of healthcare delivery in the country,” the statement continued.

Yesterday the Penang State Health Department recorded 10 clusters of Influenza-like Illness involving 62 individuals with influenza in the clusters from December 29 until noon.

Earlier this month, an outbreak of “viral pneumonia of unknown origin” attributed to influenza was traced to the Wuhan province in China.

The outbreak is creating fear across Asia, which saw over 700 deaths due to SARS, or Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus, in the region in the early 2000s.

Forty-four cases of the latest mystery pneumonia were reported in the Chinese province alone and similar viral respiratory illnesses have been detected in Hong Kong.

Closer to home, Singapore reported its first case last week after an incoming traveller from China fell sick.

Malaysia has not reported any case so far but has tightened up health screenings at all international borders as a precaution.