GPs across the country have been forced to pay for their personal flu jab as their practices are ‘massively short’ of stock.
In some cases, practices have run out of stock and say they do not expect to see it topped up until November.
Yet vaccine manufacturers have said they are not experiencing shortages of pre-ordered vaccines and deliveries are on track.
Earlier this year Public Health England said GPs may need to secure more flu vaccines, but at a point when many practices had already placed their orders with manufacturers. Some manufacturers later said they had put waiting lists in place.
South Derbyshire GP Dr James Betteridge-Sorby took to Twitter this week to express frustration at having to book a private jab ‘for the first time in 18 years’.
He said his practice ‘has not received enough stock’ to vaccinate staff, while he said non-patient-facing staff at his local acute trusts were vaccinated ‘weeks ago’.
North London GP Dr Renée Hoenderkamp commented that her practice is ‘massively short’ of stock, while Kent portfolio GP Dr Stephanie deGiorgio said she too was planning to pay for a jab due to shortages.
Dr Betteridge-Sorby added that he has ‘been in [or] phoned 20 pharmacies in the South Derbyshire area’ but ended up booking online with a pharmacy in Devon after ‘none’ had stock available.
Manufacturers have said they have enough stock available to supply vaccines that were pre-ordered and are in some cases delivering those jabs earlier than planned.
A spokesperson for Sanofi – which supplies flu vaccines for under-65s and at-risk groups – told Pulse it is ‘not experiencing shortages’ and is ‘slightly ahead’ on pre-ordered deliveries.
They added that while ‘industry manufacturing capacity will not be able to meet global demand’ due to coronavirus, Sanofi has committed to provide an additional 3.5m flu vaccine doses to the UK ‘on top of those already pre-ordered’.
They said: ‘Sanofi is running slightly ahead of schedule in deliveries of pre-ordered flu vaccine into the UK.
‘By the end of October, we expect to have delivered around 70% of our pre-ordered doses; the remaining orders will arrive weekly up to the first week of December.’
They added: ‘For the additional orders we are still working with the Government on plans for bringing these doses into the UK.’
Manufacturer Seqirus, which supplies vaccines for the over-65s, noted GP practices place their orders ‘well in advance’ of the flu season, but this year were told in May to order more doses.
It said the company was able to ‘fulfil a significant number of orders at that time’.
Helen Concilia, UK country head for Seqirus, said: ‘It is very encouraging that providers in the UK who need additional flu vaccines for the funded cohorts will be able to access DHSC centrally supplied flu vaccines in the coming weeks.
‘As the leading supplier of seasonal influenza vaccines for the over 65s and those at risk from the worst effects of flu, we can confirm that there is adequate supply.’
A spokesperson for AstraZeneca – which supplies the children’s nasal spray vaccine – said there was ‘ample supply’ and it ‘does not expect any shortages’.
They said: ‘Procurement of the childhood vaccine is by Public Health England centrally and reflects the cohorts in the Chief Medical Officer’s letter.
‘Careful planning has ensured we have met the need so that there is enough stock of flu vaccine for every eligible child in the UK to be vaccinated.’
A spokesperson for GlaxoSmithKline told Pulse it too is ‘still on track to supply an agreed amount of doses’ for the UK flu programme.
An NHS spokesperson said: ‘Further information will be made available shortly on additional funding for this year’s flu vaccinations.’
A PHE report revealed yesterday that GP practices in England have delivered more flu vaccinations to patients over 65 years old than they had at the same point last year – with rates higher than 2019 in all eligible groups.
It comes as GPs this week warned that flu clinics face ‘uncertainty’, as NHS England confirmed eligibility will only be extended to those aged 50-64 ‘if circumstances permit’.
Some GPs have already been forced to cancel flu clinics for vulnerable patients amid delays to vaccine deliveries.
Some independent pharmacies in England have also warned they had run out of vaccine only a month into the season as they face unprecedented demand, as Pulse sister title The Pharmacist reports.
This year, the Government announced an expanded flu vaccine campaign in response to Covid-19, with 30m people eligible.