The UK faces delays to childhood nasal spray flu vaccine next month, with GPs urged to prioritise children with the greatest risk from flu infection.
Pharmaceutical supplier Astra Zeneca has warned Public Health England — which procures the vaccine and transports it to the whole of the UK — that there will be a delay in the delivery of some batches of Fluenz Tetra that were due to arrive in November.
The delay was caused by Astra Zeneca’s routine testing process, but the company said this is not related to the safety or effectiveness of the vaccine.
Priority should be given to children with underlying medical conditions that increase the risk of a flu infection, PHE advised.
The delay does not affect the injectable flu vaccine.
Earlier this month it was announced that flu vaccinations would be extended to all primary school-aged children in England this flu season, with all given the nasal sprays unless they have a medical condition that means they require the injectable version.
Head of immunisation at PHE, Dr Mary Ramsay, said: ‘We are working with Astra Zeneca and NHS England and Improvement to ensure that all eligible children get their flu vaccine as soon as possible. Children who have underlying medical conditions that make them more vulnerable to flu will be prioritised by GPs first.
‘Vaccinations for other toddlers can also start, but some children may need to wait until later in November.’
The Welsh government issued a statement saying it is aware of the possible disruption and that there is enough stock available in Wales to start the vaccination of two- and three-year-olds, along with children in clinical risk groups.
Scotland’s deputy chief medical officer Dr Gregor Smith similarly said: ‘We have been exploring how to best use the available stock based on evidence and clinical advice, and I have written to Health Protection Scotland and NHS board coordinators asking them to prioritise children with eligible health conditions and the two to five-year-old programme, similar to other parts of the UK.’
School vaccination programmes in England, Wales and Scotland will continue as normal, but ‘further additional measures’ will be considered if there are further delays. The Department of Health in Northern Ireland were unable to confirm at the point of publication if this was the case in Northern Ireland.
It follows the news that deliveries of quadrivalent flu vaccines for 18 to 64-year-olds will be between one and two weeks late due to an unexpected delay in manufacturing, according to supplier Sanofi Pasteur.