This site is intended for health professionals only

At the heart of general practice since 1960

Shingles vaccine shortage blamed on GPs 'multiple ordering' as Public Health England imposes further restrictions

Public Health England has placed a further restriction on orders of the shingles vaccine after blaming GPs for causing stocks to run out temporarily by placing multiple orders.

PHE last month restricted practices to ordering just five doses of the Zostavax shingles vaccine at a time because of a temporary delay in the supply of vaccine from the manufacturer. But stocks ran out regardless as a result of practices placing multiple orders to get round the five-dose cap, PHE claimed in a vaccine update.

The public health body confirmed to Pulse that the vaccine is available again from the ImmForm website, but while the shortage continues it is placing an additional restriction of 25 vaccine doses per practice per week in an attempt to prevent any worsening of the situation.

However, the RCGP’s immunisation lead has hit back at the claims, saying that GPs have had ‘good reason’ to over-order following problems with flu vaccines in the past.

A statement from PHE said: ‘While the delays continue, a restriction on the quantity of vaccine which can be ordered per week is in place. Customer orders are currently being capped to 25 doses per week per practice. We expect disruption to the supply of shingles vaccine to continue until normal supplies are restored by the manufacturer Sanofi Pasteur MSD.’

The Government introduced the national shingles vaccination programme in September this year for people aged 70 years, along with a catch-up programme for people over 70 starting in those aged 79 years. This was in line with JCVI advice that the Zostavax vaccine is cost-effective for reducing shingles and post-herpetic neuralgia in the 70–79 years age group.

But PHE said that there were problems with practices stockpiling the vaccines. Its September update stated: ‘Multiple ordering to circumvent the cap has presented a number of challenges both for the distributor in distributing those orders, and for PHE in managing the remaining stock.’

PHE urged GPs not to stockpile the vaccine to prevent wastage and reminded GPs they have until the end of August 2014 to complete the vaccinations in their 70- and 79-year-old groups.

The PHE update added: ‘Please do not stockpile the vaccine as the vaccine is expensive and it is important to minimise wastage. Please note that the vaccine can be administered to the two eligible cohorts at any time between 1 September 2013 and 31 August 2014.’

But Dr George Kassianos, RCGP immunisation lead and a GP in Berkshire, questioned why PHE could not have stopped multiple ordering if stocks had fallen so low and said GPs ‘had good reason’ to be wary of running out of vaccines ‘after their experience with the pandemic influenza vaccine initial supplies’. 

Dr Kassianos said: ‘If any practices put in multiple orders, ImmForm would know instantly and Public Health England can stop the vaccines being dispatched, so why blame GPs?’

‘GPs have good reasons to want to put in multiple orders. We still remember getting 500 doses of the epidemic influenza vaccine per practice - so practices got 500 doses if they had 15,000 patients or 2,000 patients. How can GPs forget?’

Dr John Hughes, chair of Manchester LMC, said the shortages were not causing a problem and said some GPs may have over-ordered vaccine because they had been confused about which age groups to vaccinate.

He said: ‘It is not really a problem, because we’re only treating 70- and 79-year olds. I think what’s happened is some practices have misunderstood, thinking they have to do everybody between 70 and 79 all at once, and have stockpiled. That plus a bit of a production problem has caused the difficulty.’

Dr Hughes added: ‘There is not a huge demand for it because it hasn’t been greatly publicised and there is no big panic because we have until next year to get them done.’  

A spokesperson for Sanofi Pasteur MSD said: ‘It is the case we have had some initial temporary delays in the vaccine supply. We are working hard to resolve them and we are confident we will do this. All the deliveries we have planned to make will be made and so far we have delivered 500,000 doses so there is stock out there for GPs to start vaccinating people.’

Readers' comments (26)

  • Complete crap!
    Take responsibility you idiots. GPs get blamed for every bloody thing these days, you cheeky devils.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • A lack of organisation of drunkenness in the brewery - blamed on English GPs!

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • wish we had the chance (or even the room) to stockpile the vaccine. We ordered 1/4 of the potential demand & now due to the DOH we have a waiting list for patients.
    its the swine flu programmer all over again!

    Would just "LOVE IT" if the DOH took the flu vaccination programme off GP's as often suggested - would sit back and watch the ensuing chaos!!

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • What a load of twaddle - we ordered EXACTLY what we needed for patients who said they wanted it and were booked in - SO DON'T BLAME US - we are now telling everyone to complain direc to NHS England, Public Health and David Cameron.........AND we are giving them the addresses to write to !!!

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Not a great demand what world are you living in - we have been overwhelmed !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Yes, we may have until August 2014 ... but in the EFFICIENT world of general practice we prefer to give the jab sooner rather than later ... and when the patient is already coming in for their flu jab!! As with all of these campaigns the hassle and extra work to compensate for the ineffeciency of others means we will be doing this at a loss probably

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • If in doubt blame the GPs(+other frontline proffessionals),easy get out for useless beurocrats and politicians.Getting a bit sick of it.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Was it not Public Health England, who in a Vaccine Update, said "We expect this to be given at the same time as the influenza vaccination". Of course we ordered what we needed, not stockpiling. So it is them who cocked up by not ensuring that the manufacturer had sufficent stock.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • The Government must have had a rough idea how many patients would be entitled to a shingles vaccine so should have ensured the manufacturer could meet the demand! NOT THE GPs FAULT!!!!!

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • I am sure that some surgeries did order and stockpile because of their experience of previous campaigns. Can you blame them? We went down the route of ordering a small %age and of course are now suffering as we cannot give at same time as flu jab and will have to recall the patient wasting their time and ours... There is only one group to blame Public Health England... it is so easy to balme GP's to heighten the whipping frenzy we are no in.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

View results 10 results per page20 results per page50 results per page

Have your say