GP practices and patients should not be concerned over the supply of flu vaccines, which in some cases will be delivered later next month, GP leaders have said.
The BMA and the RCGP said that although there have been reports of patients being turned away from their practices because of limited stock, this has to do with the way the delivery of the adjuvanted trivalent influenza vaccine (a-TIV) had been arranged.
Patients aged over 65 have been recommended to receive the a-TIV, known as Fluad, after it was found to be more effective for them.
However, the BMA said that ‘it takes time for the supplier to generate sufficient quantity of Fluad’, and it was therefore decided to supply the vaccine in three phases in September, October and November.
Data published by Public Health England showed that uptake of the vaccine is 20% lower than last year among over-65s, but the BMA told our sister publication Pulse that due to the phased delivery, ‘it’s only in November that we can ensure that all eligible patients have been given an opportunity to be vaccinated’.
‘Practice teams understandably frustrated’
BMA GP committee chair Dr Richard Vautrey said: ‘Patients, GPs and their practice teams are understandably frustrated by the problems caused by the necessary phased supply of influenza vaccination this year.
‘However, both patients and practices should be reassured that there are adequate supplies of flu vaccine for those who need to be immunised this winter.’
He said that patients under 65, who are instead eligiblefor the quadrivalent influenza vaccine (QIV), are ‘unaffected’ by supply issues and should get their jab as soon as possible.
RCGP immunisation lead Dr George Kassianos said they ‘have been assured’ both vaccines are not affected by shortages.
He said: ‘The way the aTIV jab is supplied is different just for this year. Rather than being delivered in one bulk order, it’s delivered in stages to GP surgeries over September to November, which is why some patients might be under the impression that in some places it’s run out too soon.’
Last month, NHS England encouraged GP practices and pharmacies to ‘shift around’ flu vaccine stock following distribution issues affecting both types of vaccine, to make sure patients get vaccinated.