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Practices face two week delay to flu vaccine deliveries

Deliveries of quadrivalent flu vaccines will be between one and two weeks late due to an unexpected delay in manufacturing, according to supplier Sanofi Pasteur. 

It follows the supplier’s decision earlier this year to stagger the delivery of its quadrivalent flu vaccines, which are for 18 to 64-year-olds, after a delay to the World Health Organisation (WHO) strain information. Some vaccines were not due to be delivered until the end of November. 

Flu vaccines for over-65s, adjuvanted trivalent vaccine (aTIV), were on time earlier this month, according to supplier Seqirus.

A spokesperson for the supplier said: ‘Sanofi Pasteur has experienced a small unexpected delay in the final stages of vaccine manufacturing at our main manufacturing plant in France.

‘This has meant the phasing of 40% of the first deliveries of Sanofi Pasteur’s quadrivalent influenza vaccine will be one to two weeks behind that previously communicated to customers ahead of the season.’

They added that the supplier had contacted all customers and were working closely with Public Health England, the Department of Health and Social Care and the NHS to minimise the 'operational challenges'.

The supplier also said this was a ‘unique’ year in flu vaccine supply. 

The spokesperson said: ‘In 2019, multiple factors have contributed to a particularly unique year in influenza vaccine supply. The World Health Organization (WHO) took the decision to select two new influenza virus strains out of the four contained in quadrivalent influenza vaccines.

‘In addition to this, the WHO delayed the selection of one of the strains by one month. While we fully appreciate the WHO decision, this meant Sanofi Pasteur’s vaccine distribution commenced a few weeks later than last season.’

WHO said in March it had delayed it’s decision ‘to better understand the distribution and proportions of recently circulating antigenically and genetically diverse A(H3N2) viruses and to develop and fully characterize appropriate candidate vaccine viruses’.

Last year, practices were told they would receive their stock of aTIV in a phased manner over three months. The delay meant that a temporary relaxation in regulations was put in place to enable GP practices and pharmacies to swap flu vaccine stocks.

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