GP practices have raised concerns after learning they will not receive the bulk of the new flu vaccine for their elderly patients until November.
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) recommended the use of Fluad – an adjuvanted trivalent inactivated flu vaccine – in October 2017 in the over 65s because it ‘is more effective and highly cost effective’ in this age group compared with the normal flu vaccine.
It should be a particular priority for the over 75s, the JCVI, advises, because the usual vaccine ‘has showed no significant effectiveness in this group over recent seasons’.
But GPs have raised concerns that they will not receive 40% of the delivery of the aTIV vaccine until November – potentially well into the flu season.
The issue was raised at a recent meeting of Bro Taf LMC, who cover Cardiff and the surrounding area, and the health board after multiple practices took issue with the proposed delivery schedule of 40% in Sep, 20% in Oct and 40% in Nov.
Dr Steve Davies, chair of Bro Taf LMC, said: ‘Practices expected the bulk of their orders to arrive in September.
‘November is quite a way in to the flu season and we are concerned this will leave the over 75s (who must have the adjuvanted trivalent vaccine) in particular at more risk.’
Pulse understands that this delivery schedule will be the same across the UK and for all providers.
Dr Andrew Green, GPC clinical and prescribing policy lead said they had argued ‘forcefully and successfully’ that all providers should be subject to exactly the same timescales so there are no unfair advantages.
‘The problem is that manufacturing flu vaccine isn’t like making bricks and the supply cannot be provided any earlier.
‘It is vital that elderly patients get an effective vaccine so the delay is unavoidable.’
He advised that GPs to prioritise their invitations to protect those at greatest risk first.
Dr Phil White who had been dealing with the issue for GPC Wales said at the moment there was only one company making the vaccine so there was little that could be done about delivery schedules.
He added it would be ‘very difficult’ for GPs to plan clinics but advised practices to vaccinate as many as the under 65s as early as they could – especially children.
‘The most effective step from a prevention point of view is vaccinating the children first to try to stop flu spreading.’
A spokesperson for NHS England said there would be enough vaccine to meet demand by the end of November.
‘Everyone aged 65 years and over who requests aTIV should be able to have this before the end of November.
‘In the last two seasons, around 4% of those aged 65 years and over did not attend for vaccination until December and January .
‘No two flu seasons are the same and it is not possible to predict when flu activity will increase.’
They added that NHS England is looking at the ways GPs and community pharmacy ‘can be supported in planning their clinics taking into account the availability of aTIV in the 2018/19 season’.
Sharon McHale, head of corporate affairs at vaccine manufacturer Seqirus said the delivery was spread out because the recommendation to use Fluad came towards the end of the ordering window but that they would be able to supply the 9m doses needed.
‘To be able to meet the increased number of doses, we took the decision to extend the manufacturing campaign at our Liverpool facility, which in turn meant phasing delivery of the vaccine across September, October and early November.
‘Several communications have been issued by the NHS and Seqirus over the key several weeks about the delivery timetable so that practices can plan their influenza vaccine clinics accordingly.’