Pharmacies administer record numbers of flu vaccines despite supply issues

Since the start of the 2021/2022 flu vaccination programme, community pharmacies in England have administered at least 1.8 million flu vaccines, up on the 1.4 million administered during the same time period in 2020.

Community pharmacies in England have administered record numbers of flu vaccines so far this season, despite reports of vaccines shortages.

According to data collected by the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC), community pharmacies had administered at least 1.8 million flu vaccines as of 12 October 2021, just a few weeks since this year’s flu vaccination programme began on 1 September 2021.

Even though this total only includes pharmacies recording vaccinations in PharmOutcomes and does not include those using Sonar, it already exceeds the number administered at the same point in 2020, when pharmacies using both PharmOutcomes and Sonar to log vaccinations had administered 1.4 million flu vaccines in total.

By the end of the 2020/2021 flu season, community pharmacies had delivered record-breaking numbers of flu vaccines, with 2,766,332 vaccinations administered between 1 September 2020 and 31 March 2021 — over 1 million more than during the 2019/2020 flu season.

The high flu vaccination rate so far comes despite reports of low supplies of the vaccines in parts of England.

In a statement issued on 11 October 2021, the PSNC said: “Requests for flu vaccinations are at an all-time high as people seek to protect themselves.

“We are seeing some regional variation where stocks have run low and even temporarily run out in some cases due to a surge in demand.

“However, as flu vaccines are sent in phased deliveries over the season, pharmacies will be expecting to have more stock delivered in due course.”

On 8 October 2021, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) published guidance for community pharmacies on how to access additional stock procured by the government.

According to the guidance, the stock can be accessed through wholesalers from November 2021.

“Community pharmacies should determine if there is a need for further flu vaccines by assessing current uptake rates in eligible cohorts (taking into account booked clinics) and calculating any additional vaccines required,” it said.

“Community pharmacies should then get in contact with their regular wholesaler in order to access additional stock, and follow the wholesalers process for ordering stock.”

The guidance added that the government anticipates that there will be no unused stock at the end of the season if DHSC stock has been purchased.

“DHSC has boosted supply to the community pharmacy sector, and these vaccines are intended to be used after local stocks are exhausted as they are coming later in the season.

“Whilst this is not a strict requirement, it is expected to ensure that wastage is minimised.”

Ahead of the 2021/2022 flu season, the government again expanded eligibility for a free NHS flu vaccine to patients aged 50–64 years in England. This cohort had previously been included in the 2020/2021 flu season.

READ MORE: In figures: the biggest flu vaccination campaign in history

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Citation
The Pharmaceutical Journal, PJ, October 2021, Vol 307, No 7954;307(7954)::DOI:10.1211/PJ.2021.1.110236