Community pharmacists vaccinated more than 650,000 NHS patients in the first four weeks of the flu vaccination service, which is three times the number vaccinated in the same period last year, the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) has said.
However, the PSNC added that the “accelerated start” to the service has left many pharmacies “temporarily out of stock” of flu vaccine, with contractors and local pharmaceutical committees reporting a huge increase in public demand; in some cases, ten times the usual demand.
The surge has already forced Boots to pause new flu vaccination bookings for people aged under 65 years, for both NHS and private services, despite ordering 20% more vaccinations than normal.
But flu vaccine manufacturers have told The Pharmaceutical Journal they are supplying more vaccines “than ever” and continue to provide “regular substantial shipments”.
Simon Dukes, chief executive of the PSNC, said in a statement on 25 September 2020 that community pharmacy teams had been the “first out of the blocks” in the NHS’s effort to vaccinate a “record number” of people against flu.
“Demand is clearly being driven by changes in patients’ attitudes towards the risk of respiratory infections as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic,” he said.
“However, the accelerated start to the service this year does mean many pharmacies are temporarily out of stock of vaccine before further supplies arrive as part of staged deliveries.”
He said that the PSNC and the Department of Health and Social Care were discussing the best approach for distribution of the vaccines in the government stockpile to community pharmacies.
“We are pushing for the sector to have a priority call on the stock as soon as it starts to arrive in November,” he added.
A spokesperson for flu vaccine manufacturer Sanofi said it had already brought in more than one million doses and would “continue to bring in regular substantial shipments to accommodate the significant increase in supply and make doses available to help support the expanded flu programme”.
“This season it is important that we protect as many people as possible from flu. Therefore, we will work together with HCPs [healthcare professionals] to supply enough doses, which can still be utilised late into the winter season,” they added.
Another manufacturer, Seqirus, said it was “supplying more seasonal influenza vaccines than ever”, and is “on track” with all of its deliveries.
“GP practices and pharmacists placed their orders up to 12 months ago then increased them last May in anticipation of high demand,” they said.
“Influenza immunisation commenced earlier this month and appointments will be staggered over the coming weeks and months. The government is also making more vaccines available later in the season to expand vaccination to all those aged 50 to 64.”