GPs have been instructed by NHS England to halt all orders on flu vaccines until February, until all clinical evidence and cost-effectiveness data are re-evaluated.
The letter, issued yesterday, stated that ‘no further orders for influenza vaccine should be made and no provisional orders should be converted to confirmed’ until they have released definitive guidance, expected on 5 February.
This news follows an earlier letter from NHS England in December 2017 advising GP practices to order two different variations, including Fluad, an adjuvanted vaccine, which they said should be given to over-75s in the 2018/19 flu season.
GPs said at the time this advice had me ‘too late’ for many practices, but even this advice could now be overturned as NHS England told practices it was reviewing their approach for those aged 65 years and over.
The latest notice from NHS England stated that, ‘We are currently reviewing the clinical evidence, including advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) and cost-effectiveness data from Public Health England in respect of influenza vaccines for 65 year olds and over and those in at risk groups who are under 65 years old.’
The JCVI met last November to discuss the 2018/19 flu season, with the meeting minutes stating that, ‘The available evidence indicated adjuvanted influenza vaccines were more effective in those over 65 years of age, compared with influenza vaccine currently used in the UK’. This followed the Public Health England announcement that 2016/2017 vaccine was ‘not significantly effective’ for the over-65s.
The turmoil over vaccine ordering comes after a busy flu season for GPs this winter, with a survey by Pulse showing that one in three GP practices are running out of flu vaccine. This comes as more than 31,500 patients presented to GPs with influenza in the third week of January alone.