As part of an expanded flu programme for 2021/22, the DHSC has made additional supplies of influenza vaccine available so regional commissioners can ‘top up local supplies once they run low’.
The extra vaccines will be deployed to areas where they are most needed to maximise uptake, with the majority of stock arriving from ‘early November onward’. Practices can place orders through NHS England commissioners.
It comes as vaccination against flu and COVID-19 could become mandatory for frontline health and care staff under proposals set out in a government consultation.
Practices should determine if they need further flu vaccines by assessing their current uptake rates in eligible cohorts and calculating the amount required to vaccinate outstanding patients compared with existing supply and orders yet to be delivered.
In new guidance the DHSC recommends that practices only order vaccines for approved cohorts who are eligible as part of the public programme, and must order a minimum of 50 doses. It adds that practices should request no more than two stock orders.
It is not possible for PCNs or PCN groupings to order vaccines themselves, with providers being asked to order any additional flu vaccines following the guidance for the type of organisation they are. For general practice, this is via their NHS England regional commissioning team.
Officials said regional NHS England public health commissioning teams will coordinate stock across local areas to ensure that vaccines are distributed equitably and according to need, with central stock limited.
Cancelled flu clinics
Practices will be provided with the vaccines free of charge, but will only be able to claim an item of service fee for each DHSC-supplied vaccine that is administered. Extra stock will not be handed out next season.
The national programme is aiming to reach 85% vaccine uptake for those over 65 years and 75% for those eligible under 65 years as per the flu letter. Experts have predicted the number of flu cases this winter could be 'up to 50%' higher than in a typical year and could start earlier than normal.
Practices were forced to cancel flu vaccine clinics in September after Seqirus, the UK's largest supplier of flu vaccines, said deliveries would be delayed due to ‘unforeseen road freight issues’.