Only a very small number of over-65s have been given the wrong flu vaccine, and affected patients will all be contacted, NHS England has said.
Further, the investigation into the ‘potential serious incident’ after records showed the wrong vaccine was being given to some over-65s has mainly found data problems rather than genuine mistakes, it claimed.
It comes after reports of a letter was sent from NHS England’s South East regional team which raised concerns about the QIVe flu vaccine being given to patients over the age of 65 years when it is not recommended in this group.
HSJ reported that officials were contacting practices and pharmacists directly where there was a record of the QIVe vaccine been given to an older patient to find out what had happened.
Initial investigations had identified a mixture of both coding errors and patients being given the vaccine, which is not harmful but is less effective in the over-65s, the letter said.
There had also been reports in September of a ‘significant number of occurrences’ where QIVe had been given to patients over 65 with pharmacies in the West Midlands being asked to recall and risk assess in circumstances where this had happened.
But NHS England said as they worked through the investigation it was becoming apparent the issue was largely due to reporting errors, although anyone who had been given the QIVe vaccine in this group would be contacted.
An NHS spokesperson said: ‘While this issue was found to be mainly a result of data being recorded inaccurately, there is no clinical risk to the small number of patients affected and all providers have been asked to contact those impacted.’
While NHS England would not give a figure while it is being looked at, in the context of 15 million vaccines being delivered and two thirds of over 65s vaccinated, the number will be very small, they added.
Official guidance from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation guidance issued ahead of this year’s vaccine campaign said QIVe was not recommended for the over-65s, because the evidence suggested it was not effective in this age group.
The guidance states that if aQIV and QIVr are not available, QIVc is an acceptable alternative and is preferable to standard egg culture influenza vaccines (QIVe)
Providers are only reimbursed by NHS England on use of the recommended vaccine type.
In its contractual details for the 2022/23 campaign, NHS England said: ‘Contractual requirements for all commissioned NHS flu vaccination providers will state that to receive payment for flu vaccination and reimbursement of flu vaccine, providers will need to use the specific flu vaccines recommended in this NHSE guidance.’
In September, GPs were asked not to declare their September flu achievement figures because of issues with the data.
A primary care bulletin noted that NHS England issues had been raised that were impacting both adult and childhood flu vaccine extracts.