The number of available flu vaccines for this year’s flu season is set to exceed demand, NHS England has said.
In a letter sent to GP leads and practice managers last week, NHS England said that the supply of the adjuvanted trivalent inactivated flu vaccine (aTIV) – also known as Fluad – for the over-65s will ‘exceed anticipated requirements’.
The letter was released after the BMA and the RCGP reassured GP practices that there will be adequate flu vaccine supply for those who need to be vaccinated this winter, and that both types of flu vaccines are not affected by shortages.
Last week, NHS England suggested GP practices had ‘more than enough time’ to secure the stocks for aTIV, amid reports that GP practices and pharmacists had to turn patients away due to issues experienced securing stocks of the vaccine for over 65s.
Supply exceeding demand
The NHS England letter stated: ‘By mid-November, the complete order for 8.3m doses of aTIV will have been delivered to GP practices, pharmacies and other providers in England, so vaccine availability in total exceeds anticipated requirements.’
However, a spokesperson for the vaccine supplier Seqirus confirmed yesterday that the total doses for England will reach 8.5 million.
They told Management in Practice: ‘By the end of this week, we will have completed the third and final phase of the delivery plan agreed with NHS England earlier this year.
‘Our second and third phase deliveries included extra stock that we were able to make available to meet additional unexpected demand.
‘Supply of Fluad across the UK is now expected to total 9.8 million doses, which is well above the uptake seen in the 65+ age group in previous seasons.’
Last year, around 7.4 million people aged 65 and over were vaccinated against the flu, according to NHS England.
‘Necessary’ staged deliveries
In August, NHS England said that GP surgeries and pharmacists would receive three batches of the aTIV over three months – 40% in September, 20% in October and a further 40% in November.
NHS England argued that having phased deliveries was ‘necessary to enable the vaccine to be available for this year’s flu season’.
Following recommendation by Government body the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), a new aTIV was introduced for the over-65s for this year’s flu season.
According to Public Health England, the vaccine could result in 2,000 fewer hospitalisations, prevent 700 hospital deaths and reduce GP consultations by 30,000.
A version of this story was first published on our sister publication The Pharmacist.
Additional reporting by Valeria Fiore.