MPs on the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee say they have confidence in the current flu vaccination procurement system and there is no reason for reform, despite numerous reports of supply shortages.
In a report published on 16 October 2018, the committee said it was “reassured” that action has been taken to tackle shortages where they exist during the current flu season, and said that they “see no reason why this arrangement should change”.
Its publication coincides with community pharmacists telling The Pharmaceutical Journal
that they were having to turn patients away as a result of problems acquiring sufficient supplies of the adjuvanted trivalent (aTIV) flu vaccination.
The problem has prompted the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) to produce a leaflet for community pharmacists to give to patients, explaining the reason for vaccine shortages and why it is still important to return at a later date for the immunisation.
This is the first year that the aTIV vaccination has been used, following a recommendation from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation that patients aged over 65 years should receive it. The vaccine, Fluad, is manufactured solely by Seqirus. Following negotiations with the PSNC, the British Medical Association and NHS England, delivery of the vaccine to pharmacies and GP practices will be staggered throughout October and December 2018.
MPs are convinced that effective systems are already in place to tackle stock supply problems and that no new action is needed.
Their report pointed out that any shortages created by failure to order supplies or where demand exceeds current stock can be dealt with at a local level, as vaccine stocks can be shared between community pharmacies and local surgeries within a locality if necessary.
The commitee’s view followed evidence heard during the inquiry from Paul Cosford, director for health protection and medical director at Public Health England, who was also reluctant to see change.
He told the inquiry: “We would have to think carefully about any changes in the system of procurement because the last thing we want to do is to remove the incentives that get our programmes to the best possible level.
“If we were to change the procurement system, we would have to be very cautious about making sure that was done with the complete engagement and support of GPs and that the systems to value their input were absolutely there.”
In its report, the committee also expressed “shock” at the low uptake of the vaccine by staff working in care homes in the 2017/2018 flu season, which reached a maximum of 25%.
Norman Lamb, chair of the committee, said: “Some of our most vulnerable people are living in care homes and more must be done to protect them.”
The committee said it wanted a 100% vaccination target introduced for care home staff and suggested that Care Quality Commission inspectors should consider vaccination uptake rates as part of their inspection programme of care providers.
The MPs were also concerned about the variation in vaccination rates among hospital staff. They felt that healthcare professionals had a duty to be vaccinated and wanted the government to consider making the vaccination mandatory for some health workers.