GP practices and pharmacies will no longer be barred from sharing flu vaccination stock without a wholesaler licence, NHS England has confirmed.
In a letter circulated to contractors and GP practices last week (7 November), NHS England said that the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) will permit healthcare professionals to transfer any ‘excess’ flu vaccine stock due to supply issues.
This applies to both the egg-grown quadrivalent influenza vaccine (QIVe) and the newly-licenced cell-based quadrivalent influenza vaccine (QIVc), the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) added.
Last month, GP practices were told to only order childhood nasal flu vaccines one week at a time and in September, supplier Sanofi Pasteur announced that deliveries of quadrivalent flu vaccines for 18 to 64-year-olds would be between one and two weeks late due to an unexpected delay in manufacturing.
Discuss with patients
The letter said: ‘Routinely, medication can only be distributed between providers where a wholesaler licence exists.
‘However, the MHRA has confirmed that with regards to the QIV flu vaccines recommended for those aged under 65 years in clinical risk groups and for LAIV flu vaccine recommended for the children’s programme in the 2019/20 flu season, it would not prevent the transfer of QIV or LAIV vaccine under the given circumstance of ‘in short supply’ or temporary ‘no supply’ available.’
The letter said GP practices should also ‘discuss the option’ with patients of receiving the vaccine at a local pharmacy as an alternative action before the transfer of stock.
It said: ‘GPs transferring excess stock between other practices and pharmacies should ensure they discuss this in the first instance with the CCG flu lead and NHS England commissioning team.’
Transfers of stock will only be permitted if it can be verified that the vaccines have been stored in the correct temperature-controlled conditions, with available records of temperature monitoring, and if the vaccine can be transported in the correct conditions, the letter added.
Last year, the Government was forced to suspend regulation to enable GP practice flu vaccine swaps due to supply issues.