The Government has ordered almost half a million extra adult flu vaccinations to stockpile in case of a no-deal Brexit.
In a House of Lords debate on Brexit and the supply of medicines and medical devices on 2 October, the Lord in Waiting Lord Bethall assured the Lords that the Department for Health and Social Care is ‘doing everything possible’ to prepare for a no-deal exit from the EU.
It comes as significant supplier Sanofi Pasteur said last week that practice may face a one or two week delay in the delivery of quadrivalent flu vaccines, which are for 18-64-year-olds.
The Government has therefore stockpiled more vaccines to ‘ensure the uninterrupted supply’ following Brexit.
In the House of Lords, Lord Bethall said: ‘I reassure patients that our plans to ensure the uninterrupted supply of medicines and medical products when we leave the EU are as solid as possible.’
Baroness Thornton, the shadow health spokesperson raised concerns about the availability of the flu vaccine, which would be ‘affected’ by a no-deal.
In response, Lord Bethall said the Government procured an extra 400,000 adult vaccines to assure that GP practices do not run out.
He added: ‘The noble Baroness makes a very fair point about concerns about easily diminished medicines such as vaccines and isotopes. I reassure her that plans are very well advanced to provide adequate stocks.
‘The Government has procured a buffer stock of 400,000 adult vaccines, and a large number of measures have been put in place, including the use of air freight, the search for alternative vaccines where necessary and the central stockpiling of very large numbers of medical supplies.’
However, Professor Azeem Majeed, head of primary care at Imperial College London, said 400,000 is not a lot given the number of people eligible for flu vaccinations.
He said: ‘At the moment, my own practice is well-supplied has sufficient vaccines. Four hundred thousand vaccines sounds like quite a lot but the number of people eligible for flu vaccine in England is around 25 million, which is approaching half the population.
‘There do though seem to be sufficient supplies at present and none of the practices I am in contact with are reporting shortages.’
The Government recently issued its first serious shortage protocol (SSP) to tackle the drug shortage crisis, by allowing pharmacists to change the strength of antidepressant fluoxetine on prescriptions without consulting a GP first.
The health secretary also announced the Government was ‘seriously’ considering compulsory childhood vaccinations.