Pharmacists turning patients away as flu vaccination supplies dwindle

Staggered deliveries of the adjuvanted trivalent flu vaccine Fluad have left pharmacies and GPs short of supplies, resulting in members of the public seeking vaccination being turned away.

Source: Science Photo Library

Pharmacies and GP surgeries alike are running out of the flu vaccine for those aged over 65 years

Pharmacists across England have been forced to turn patients away after running out of the new enhanced flu vaccine for those aged over 65 years.

Staggered deliveries of the adjuvanted trivalent flu vaccine (aTIV) have meant that gaps in supply are causing logistical problems for pharmacists across the UK.

And while many pharmacists are following guidance to refer these patients to other providers in the event that they have no vaccine stock, local GP surgeries are having the same problem.

Seqirus, the manufacturer of the aTIV Fluad vaccine, agreed to phase deliveries of its product following talks with NHS England, the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee and the British Medical Association, with 40% being delivered in September, 20% in October and 40% in December 2018.

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation concluded in October 2017 that aTIV was more effective in people aged over 65 years, but NHS England and Public Health England only informed pharmacists and GPs of vaccine ordering rules in February 2018.

Sibby Buckle, a member of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society’s English Pharmacy Board and a pharmacist in Derby, said despite her pharmacy having 80 vaccines delivered at the start of October, they were gone within days.

“We’re turning away 20 patients per day at the moment because we don’t have any vaccine — and the GPs have the same problem,” she said.

“We are told we’re getting some more at the end of [October], so currently we are rebooking people in for November.”

Buckle added that more older people were coming to pharmacies to ask for the aTIV vaccine, owing to greater awareness and because it was often more convenient for them to use a walk-in service than book at a GP surgery.

In aletter to healthcare professionals, NHS England said Seqirus had confirmed sufficient availability of the Fluad vaccine to meet anticipated demand, and it said it was safe to move local supplies around as long as temperature regulations were followed.

Hitesh Patel, chief officer of City and Hackney Local Pharmaceutical Committee said he had tried to develop a spreadsheet so local pharmacists and GPs could see who had stock and when, but it had proved difficult to keep it up to date.

“Most pharmacists have run out because of the staggered supply,” he said.

“We have been told we have ordered enough — in London anyway — the problem is we don’t know who has stock at the moment.”

He said supply problems were a cause for concern and there was always a risk that patients who had been turned away would not return to the pharmacy to get vaccinated at another time.

Nat Mitchell, pharmacist and director of JWW Allison and Sons pharmacy in Cockermouth, Cumbria, deliberately over-ordered supplies in anticipation of greater numbers of people seeking the vaccination this year, but has still been left short of supply.

“I am getting more … so it’s not been too bad but we have had to change our system and reserve vaccines for people so they can come back,” he said.

Mitchell added that although it was causing problems for patients, he had not lost any business as the local GP did not have any stocks of Fluad either.

“We did expect this to happen and I wrote an article in a local newsletter to prepare people, but it is unprecedented,” he warned.

  • This article was updated on 5 November 2018 to amend the image. The original image featured an incorrect syringe type and location of administration. The correct 2018/2019 flu vaccine is now present.
Last updated
The Pharmaceutical Journal, PJ, October 2018, Vol 301, No 7918;301(7918):DOI:10.1211/PJ.2018.20205602

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