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GPs will not receive third of flu vaccine stock from key supplier until November

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Exclusive One of the UK’s key suppliers of flu vaccines will not be able to get almost a third of ordered stock to GP practices until November, Pulse has learned.

The Government has promised the ‘biggest flu vaccination programme in history’ and GPs had already expressed fears over ‘unprecedented’ flu vaccine shortages.

But Sanofi – which supplies flu vaccines for under 65s and at-risk groups – said it will not deliver 30% of the stock ordered by practices until the week commencing 9 November.

In an email sent to commissioners and seen by Pulse, NHS England’s East of England team said that practices should expect the first 25% of their order to arrive from 28 September.

It added that the rest of the order – in batches representing 20% and 25% – will be delivered in October.

A spokesperson for Sanofi told Pulse that the phased delivery aims to ensure that other customers are not ‘left without’ flu vaccine stock.

They said: ‘The scheduling is to ensure that large quantities aren’t in surgery fridges whilst other customers and countries are left without.

‘We aim to continue supplying doses in the percentages mentioned in an attempt to maintain a flow of doses that will enable social distancing clinics to run.’

Meanwhile, Sanofi does not have any stock available for additional orders from practices because all ‘spare’ vaccines are being set aside for ‘central stocks’, NHS England’s letter said.

It said: ‘The Government has been negotiating with the flu vaccine manufacturers to secure a central stock of vaccines for whatever additional cohorts they are planning.

‘Sanofi does have a waiting list so practices can add their request to the waiting list and will be offered additional vaccines should extra stock be made available in season.’

Seqirus – which supplies vaccines for over 65s – told Pulse that it is ‘on track’ to meet all deliveries and still expects to meet delivery dates agreed with practices.

A spokesperson said: ‘Practices would have agreed a week commencing date on placing their order, and Seqirus still expects to be able to meet those week commencing dates.

‘Practices should receive communication from Seqirus soon to be advised what day of the week they will be receiving their delivery.’

Meanwhile, the two vaccines supplied by Public Health England for the children’s flu programme are ‘anticipated’ to be open for ordering ‘by early September’ – although these preliminary timings are ‘subject to change’, PHE told Pulse.

NHS England told Pulse that ‘no decisions’ have yet been communicated about ‘extended cohorts or delivery models’.

It said:  ‘We are expecting the second flu letter within the next two weeks, which we expect will confirm the additional cohorts, the delivery targets and suggested delivery models. 

This comes amid reports all over-50s may be offered the flu vaccine this year, and as the BMA and NHS England are in talks about GPs offering jabs from ‘alternative sites’ outside practices.

GPs were also told to ‘gear up for a major expansion of the programme’ as part of updated QOF arrangements.

Manufacturers have previously warned their flu vaccine supply will be hampered by an ‘unprecedented’ worldwide surge in demand.

The Department of Health and Social Care declined to comment but explained phasing delivery of flu vaccines was common practice.

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