Community pharmacies in England delivered more than 70,000 more flu vaccinations during the 2018/2019 flu season compared to 2017/2018, according to provisional figures published by the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC).
During the 2018/2019 flu season, 1 September 2018 and ended on 31 March 2019, community pharmacies submitting data into the PharmOutcomes, Well, Healthi and Sonar systems delivered 1,270,489 vaccinations — an increase of 71,221 patients compared with the year before (n=1,199,268 patients).
This increase is despite pharmacists across England being forced to turn patients away in 2018 after staggered deliveries led to gaps in supply of the new adjuvanted trivalent flu vaccine.
However, the PSNC highlighted that not all contractors use these electronic systems to record administration of vaccines; therefore, the total number of vaccinations administered will be higher than the number recorded. In 2017/2018, for example, the final figure was 1,344,462 — 145,194 higher than the number recorded via the electronic systems.
Also, owing to changes agreed for the 2018/2019 service, which allowed claims for payment to be accepted by the NHS Business Services Authority up to six months after the vaccination was given, the final number of vaccinations administered will not be confirmed until October 2019 at the earliest.
According to the provisional data for 2018/2019, patients aged over 65 years was the biggest group of eligible patients to be vaccinated during the 2018/2019 season, followed by those with chronic respiratory disease and those with diabetes.
Public Health England plans to extend the vaccination programme for the 2019/2020 flu season to children in school year six meaning that, for the first time in England, all primary school aged children will be offered the vaccine.
Further to this, a newly licensed cell-based quadrivalent influenza vaccine (QIVc) will be offered to patients aged 18 years and over.
A high dose trivalent influenza vaccine, which has been deemed suitable for those aged 65 years and over, has now been licensed for use in the UK but it is not eligible for reimbursement under the NHS flu vaccination programme because it has a significantly higher list price than the equally suitable vaccines.