Patients may choose to get their flu vaccination through a ‘different provider’ than their GP this year if the Covid booster programme includes co-administration of the two jabs, NHS England has acknowledged.
However, it said NHS policy makers ‘do not anticipate that there will be an excess of flu vaccines’, in response to concerns that GP practices could be left with an abundance of supply.
NHS England sought to allay fears over the issue of surplus vaccine stocks in an FAQ document on the Covid-19 vaccination programme that was highlighted in its bulletin to GPs last night.
The document noted that GP practices and community pharmacies have ordered supplies of flu vaccines based on previous years’ uptake.
It posed the question: ‘What will happen if practices have excess stock as a consequence of co-administration (if this is approved by JCVI)?’
NHS England said in its response: ‘The ambition for the uptake of flu vaccinations for this winter will be higher than in previous years.
‘We do not anticipate that there will be an excess of flu vaccines, although we appreciate that some patients may choose to access their flu vaccinations through a different provider than they might hitherto have done.’
GPs could end up losing out on cash if they are unable to administer as many flu jabs as they would usually, due to missing out on the item-of-service payment for giving the jab as well as the reimbursement for the cost of the vaccine.
They were advised by the BMA in April when ordering flu stock to take into account that the Government would not be providing a central stock of vaccine to fall back on for this year’s expanded programme, as occurred last year.
GPs expressed fears they may face flu vaccine shortages this year, as a result of there being no central supply to cover extended cohorts.
NHS England plans for Covid-19 booster jabs to be given by community pharmacy, vaccination centres and general practice, but wants to ‘spread capacity’ more evenly and limit GPs to giving a maximum of 75% of jabs.
There have been indications that if co-administration of the flu and Covid jab goes ahead, it will take place at a PCN grouping level, after GPs were ‘actively encouraged’ to pool flu vaccines between practices.
The BMA has said it is ‘crucial’ GP teams must be able to co-administer flu and Covid vaccines from their individual practice buildings, which has not so far been possible with the Covid jab.
Final details of both the flu vaccination programme and Covid booster programme, set for the autumn, have yet to be revealed.
A clinical trial looking at safety and efficacy of co-administration of the two vaccines – with one given in each arm – is still ongoing.
The Government is aiming for a record-sized flu vaccination programme this year, with a target 35 million people being offered the jab.
Last year’s expanded flu programme saw the Government introduce a central stock for GPs – but the BMA confirmed the supply will not be available for the 2021/22 flu season.
It comes after GP practices and primary care networks (PCNs) delivered 4.2 million Covid vaccines in June, the latest appointment data shows.
This story was initially published on our sister title Pulse.