GP practices are not able to place orders for the adjuvanted trivalent flu vaccine (aTIV) directly with the supplier, despite being told so earlier this month.
Supplier Seqiris told Pulse it had briefly been able to re-open for new orders for the past couple of weeks, after securing additional stock from its global network. However it has now had to stop accepting new orders to review stock levels.
It said this comes amid ‘extraordinary demand’ for flu vaccine across the UK which exceeds that experienced in earlier years, and added it was ‘working as quickly as possible’ to respond to demand.
GP practices have been advised to give the new aTIV flu vaccine to all patients over the age of 65 this season, whilst younger patients should receive the quadrivalent vaccine (QIV).
But practices have complained of supply issues affecting both types of vaccines, and the Government was forced to temporarily suspend medicine movement regulations to enable practices to swap stocks between themselves and with pharmacies.
A notice to practices in Surrey and Sussex, sent on 4 October and which NHS England has confirmed as national advice, said there was ‘now an opportunity to order additional aTIV [Fluad] if further practice stocks are required’.
‘Before this opportunity was available, colleagues were advised that they could now obtain stock from a local community pharmacist and other practices; hopefully, with the opportunity to place orders directly, this route will not be required,’ the note from Surrey and Sussex LMC added.
An NHS England spokesperson said: ‘The supplier has made available additional stock of the vaccine for people aged over-65, which is on top of the more than nine million doses already in production and being delivered, which exceeds take-up of the vaccine last winter.’
Although 400,000 extra doses became available, Seqirus explained that the company had received a such a high volume of requests over recent weeks for the additional stock that it has had to stop taking new orders.
Seqirus head of corporate affairs Sharon McHale said: ‘We’ve continued to experience extraordinary demand for fluad [aTIV] across the UK and now expect to supply over 9.7m doses this season.
‘We’re really pleased to have made additional doses available and are working as quickly as possible to respond to the demand while also continuing to meet our delivery commitments.’
GPC clinical and prescribing lead Dr Andrew Green said the flu vaccine situation has been a ‘nightmare for GPs’ due to uncertainties and delays.
He added: ‘It is imperative that NHS England makes arrangements for next year’s programme clear as soon as possible to ensure that these difficulties do not recur.’
The BMA has advised that GP practices can administer the QIV flu vaccine to patients over 65 as a ‘last resort’ and still be reimbursed in the usual way. But it said practices should, in the first instance, advise patients to return for their vaccination when the aTIV vaccine is in stock or signpost them to another provider such as pharmacies.
Meanwhile, GPs in Scotland are having to restrict the use of the newly introduced flu vaccine to the over-75s after the Government failed to secure enough stock of the vaccine.