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Manufacturers ‘mitigate’ shortfall in GP flu jab supply

Flu vaccine orders

Exclusive Flu vaccine suppliers have said they will be able to provide GP practices with vaccine stock after mitigating shortages, Pulse has learned.

Pulse revealed last month that one manufacturer was reducing GP practice orders of the QIVe flu vaccine for the 2021/22 season by 30% due to an ‘increase in global demand’.

Sanofi told GPs and other affected customers they should consider another supplier or contact Sanofi to source an alternative flu vaccine. 

But manufacturers of the vaccines eligible for reimbursement under this year’s flu programme have now told Pulse they have mitigated the shortages or will be able to accommodate order amendments.

Paul McIntosh, franchise head of influenza vaccines UK & Ireland at Sanofi, told Pulse that it has ‘successfully sourced additional flu vaccine doses’ while other suppliers have also helped address the ‘shortfall in supply’.

He said: ‘We can confirm that our UK allocation for the QIVe flu vaccine for the 2021 season has been reduced due to an increase in global demand, and as a result we have had to reduce orders by 30% for the QIVe flu vaccine in the UK for this upcoming season.

‘To mitigate the impact of this we have successfully sourced additional flu vaccine doses and would like to thank other suppliers in the marketplace who have been able to support in addressing the shortfall in supply.’

Flu supplier Seqirus added that although pre-ordering of vaccines ‘typically begins twelve months ahead of the season’, it has been able to ‘accommodate order amendments’ following ‘increased demand’.

Seqirus cluster head for the UK and Ireland Helen Concilia said this comes amid ‘speculation that the upcoming [flu] season may be more severe’, alongside the potential for the coronavirus pandemic to ‘resurge’.

A spokesperson added that some order amendments ‘were due to QIVe shortages’ and that while Seqirus’ pre-booking window is now closed, ‘additional orders could be accommodated in season’.

A spokesperson Mylan – now known as Viatris following a merger –  said doses of its QIVe vaccine Influvac are ‘currently available for pre-orders to be delivered during the last quarter of the year, in time for the 2021/22 flu season’. 

However, a spokesperson for GSK told Pulse that it is not scheduled to supply any flu doses to the UK for the upcoming season, after providing doses for the Government’s central stock last year.

They added that GSK remains on track to deliver agreed seasonal flu doses globally this year, including the QIVe vaccine it produces.

The 2020/21 flu vaccination programme was expanded due to the Covid-19 pandemic, with the Government setting a target of vaccinating 30 million patients.

Shielded patients and their households, and the over 50s, were among the new cohorts – with GPs given access vaccine stock from a Government central supply for the 50-64s.

The BMA confirmed in April that GP practices will not have access to any central flu stock this year, although eligible cohorts will again include patients over 50.

At the time, GPs warned that the vaccine supply they have will not cover the expanded cohorts and that there will ‘inevitably’ be shortages if no additional vaccines can be secured.

In February, Public Health England (PHE) revealed that no flu cases had been detected in the last seven weeks thanks to ‘changes in our behaviour’.