NHS England has advised GPs to offer two different types of the flu vaccine for the 2018/19 season, after telling GPs to halt all orders.
In a letter, NHS England has told practices and pharmacies to offer the adjuvanted trivalent vaccine (aTIV) for all 65s and over and the quadrivalent vaccine (QIV) for at-risk patients between the ages of 18 and 64.
It said it will fund local commissioners to pass on to practices to order both types of vaccine.
This comes after GPs had been instructed by NHS England to halt all orders on flu vaccines, until all clinical evidence and cost-effectiveness data are re-evaluated.
The letter states that Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) concluded that the adjuvanted flu vaccine ‘is more effective and highly cost effective in those aged over 65 years’ compared with the ‘normal’ flu vaccines currently used for this age group.
But GPs have previously said that NHS England’s advice to order two different types of flu vaccine had come ‘too late’ for many practices.
Dr Peter English, BMA public health medicine committee chair, said: ‘The BMA is glad that NHS England has listened to concerns we first raised weeks ago and issued new guidance, which will hopefully ensure vulnerable patients receive the most effective flu vaccine for their age group. Influenza is a potentially serious illness and we want to do all we can to protect our patients.
‘It is important now for NHS England to ensure that no practice is penalised by suppliers for amending their orders that were made in good faith.’
The letter from NHS England said that GPs will need to order the vaccines by 29 March, with suppliers confirming ‘that there will be enough adjuvanted trivalent vaccine and quadrivalent influenza vaccine to meet demand’.
It added that GP must ‘ensure that flu vaccine procurement for 2018/19 is aligned with the clinical evidence-base’ and if orders need to be changed GPs are asked ‘that this is done promptly, meeting the deadlines for ordering’.
The letter said: ‘NHS England is able to confirm that that there will be additional funding available in 2018/19, to support use of adjuvanted trivalent vaccine and quadrivalent influenza vaccine.’
The JCVI said in November that ‘giving the adjuvanted vaccine to the over-75s in particular should be a priority area’.
NHS England then released guidance in January for practices to order the adjuvanted trivalent flu vaccine to give to over-75s in the 2018/19 flu season.
But NHS England then told practices to freeze all flu vaccine orders ahead of the guidance released yesterday.
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.