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GPs asked to order alternatives as Sanofi’s QIVr flu vaccine unavailable

GPs asked to order alternatives as Sanofi’s QIVr flu vaccine unavailable

GPs have been advised they should order alternative vaccines from an approved list, after Sanofi told health officials their recombinant quadrivalent influenza vaccine would not be available for this year’s flu programme.

The UK Health Security Agency confirmed to Pulse that an alternative has been secured to meet demand for flu vaccines this coming winter and practices can also order from a range of vaccines approved by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI).

A letter updating vaccine providers on plans for the 2024/25 flu vaccine programme said the company had communicated to the UKHSA that their QIVr would not be available.

‘Providers should order alternative vaccine for adults based on the 2024 to 2025 influenza vaccine recommendations of the JCVI,’ it continued.

For older adults this includes use of the high-dose quadrivalent influenza vaccine (QIV-HD) which will be available in 2024 to 2025 in the UK market.

The QIV-HD vaccine is also produced by Sanofi and is one of six available of a list that includes the nasal flu vaccine for children.

‘Alternatively, further orders of other first line vaccines, the adjuvanted quadrivalent influenza vaccine (aQIV) for those aged 65 years and older and cell-based quadrivalent influenza vaccine (QIVc) for those under 65 years, should be made,’ the letter advised

The original details of the flu campaign and available vaccines were published in March.

It said based on advice from the JCVI, the Government has asked GP practices to deliver most flu vaccines from October.

However, some patient groups should still be vaccinated from 1 September, including pregnant women, children aged 2 or 3, and primary and secondary school aged children. 

It said vaccinating eligible groups ‘closer to the time that the flu season commonly starts’ will ‘provide optimal protection’.

Suzanna McDonald, head of flu programme at UKHSA, said: ‘An alternative adult flu vaccine for the 2024/25 programme will be available this year after being notified by the manufacturer that the vaccine originally procured by providers will not be available. 

‘The alternative is one of the vaccines recommended by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisations and the flu programme will be delivered as scheduled. 

‘GPs and flu vaccine providers may also order other JCVI approved vaccines as alternatives.’

Professor Azeem Majeed, a GP and professor of primary care and public health at Imperial College London, said: ‘The unavailability of the Sanofi vaccine should have a limited impact on the flu vaccination programme as long as a sufficient number of an alternative vaccine are available and practices are aware of the alternative vaccines that can be offered.

‘In past years, vaccine supply has generally not been a problem with the flu vaccination programme.’

Meanwhile, NHS England has confirmed that this year flu vaccinations for adults will commence on 3 October.

Pregnant women and children should receive their jabs from 1 September, as had been previously announced in March.

In a bulletin sent out this week, NHS England said that despite the JCVI having ‘not yet advised what will be required of a possible Covid-19 vaccination programme beyond 31 August 2024’,  providers should still plan for any Covid-19 campaign to start alongside the main flu campaign.

‘Eligible cohorts will be confirmed following Government’s consideration of JCVI advice,’ it said.

A Sanofi spokesperson said: ‘Unfortunately, during the manufacturing process of doses for the 2024-2025 influenza season, the manufacturing site for our recombinant flu vaccine, Supemtek®, experienced an unforeseeable issue resulting in a significant loss of product. As a result, we are unable to supply recombinant quadrivalent influenza vaccine (QIVr) to customers in time for the influenza season starting in the autumn of 2024/25. This is an isolated occurrence that only impacts Supemtek, and not any other Sanofi vaccines or medicines.

‘We, at Sanofi, understand and acknowledge the impact this situation could have on those in the UK who would have received the vaccine, as well as health services.

‘We are committed to working in close partnership with the UK Health Security Agency, the NHS and other stakeholders to reduce the public health burden of infectious diseases in the UK. To this end, we have developed a mitigation plan to ensure that an adequate supply of appropriate flu vaccines is available for the upcoming 2024/25 influenza season.

‘Influenza can cause severe complications across major organ systems. Sanofi is committed to ensure people have access to the influenza vaccines that have been recommended by the JCVI and will be reimbursed by the NHS.’

Professor Peter Openshaw, professor of experimental medicine at the National Heart and Lung Institute and a respiratory physician, said: ‘This problem emphasises the precarious nature of flu vaccine manufacture. It’s technically difficult, working against the clock and if anything goes wrong the production can fail. It shows just how important it is to work towards universal flu vaccines that don’t need to be updated continuously as the virus mutates. Progress towards universal vaccines has been frustratingly slow.’

Additional reporting by Rima Evans


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