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The government is exploring the possibility of co-administering the flu vaccination with a COVID-19 vaccine during the 2020/2021 flu season, draft minutes from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) have revealed.
The minutes also show that the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) considered products not currently licensed in the UK when looking to procure extra vaccine supplies for the 2020/2021 flu season.
Minutes from the JCVI’s June 2020 meeting show that the JCVI would like to be able to review studies involving co-administration with influenza vaccines, for example with pneumococcal vaccines, and that joint delivery with other vaccines, particularly flu vaccines, should form part of COVID-19 vaccine trial designs.
It was also noted that the safety of any new vaccination programme would be under constant review.
“Providing the COVID-19 vaccine is ready in time, and so long as the two vaccine types are able to be co-administered safely and without loss of efficacy — and this can only be known after some studies/pilots are done — then to offer the two jabs together at the same time would create many efficiencies to the programmes,” said Rekha Shah, chief executive officer of Kensington Chelsea & Westminster Local Pharmaceutical Committee and Pharmacy London lead for vaccinations.
She added that this was “extremely doable” in community pharmacies.
“Community pharmacists have been delivering seasonal flu jabs along with pneumococcal jabs at the same time to patients that may be eligible to have and need both for nearly nine years. Making every contact count applies very much here.”
Sibby Buckle, a community pharmacist and a member of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society’s English Pharmacy Board, said: “Vaccinating with two or more vaccines at the same time is already standard practice, so I foresee no problem vaccinating for both flu and COVID-19.
“However, we do need reassurance that these two vaccines are compatible, and that the right immune response will be obtained.”
DHSC officials at the JCVI meeting said to expand the immunisation programme, the government had considered flu vaccines that were not currently licensed in the UK, including the recombinant vaccine, Flublok, which is used “extensively” in the United States and is expected to receive final authorisation in the UK in November 2020.
The JCVI agreed that Flublok was suitable for use in the influenza immunisation programme.
Shah said that she could see “one looming issue” for community pharmacy in this winter’s flu vaccination programme.
“Any DHSC-procured additional stocks of flu vaccines for 2020/2021 will need to be distributed fairly and equitably to all providers; this means that community pharmacists will need to be provided access to these stocks, in the same manner as general practices,” she said.
She added that, if the DHSC wanted to have community pharmacy delivering on their objective of vaccinating a higher percentage of the population as early as possible, they would have to tackle the issue of distribution in a “fair and transparent” manner to all providers.
A subcommittee will meet to finalise plans for the 2020/2021 flu season before the next JCVI meeting in October 2020.