The extra doses of the FLUAD vaccine - recommended for the first time this year for patients aged 65 and over - will be delivered to primary care providers by the end of November, bringing the overall number of available doses this season to 9.7m.
Plans to supply extra doses come after some practices were told earlier this year that their orders for the jab for over-65s could not be fulfilled. GPonline reported last month that practices had been told to share supplies of the aTIV vaccine to help avoid shortages.
GP leaders warned last month that the current season promised to be 'complex' for practices - with different vaccines for different patient groups, and supplies of the over-65 vaccine delivered in three stages. Confusion over jabs for different patient groups led one major pharmacy chain temporarily to suspend its vaccination service, amid concerns staff may have misinterpreted guidance.
Flu jab supply
Supplies of the aTIV vaccine are being rolled out in stages - with 40% of doses delivered to practices and pharmacies in September, 20% to come in October and a further 40% in November.
Manufacturer Seqirus said that 5m doses have now been delivered to practices and pharmacies in England. Additional stock was made available to meet demand from practices and pharmacies that failed to place orders before the deadline in April as well as providers wanting additional supplies.
However, due to a ‘high volume of requests’, the manufacturer is no longer taking new orders.
Prior to the announcement of extra supplies, Seqirus said it had processed more than 8,500 orders for FLUAD from practices and pharmacies across the UK, totalling almost 9.3m doses. A total of 7.8m of these were destined for general practice - and it remains unclear what proportion of the 400,000 additional doses will come to GP practices.
A spokeswoman for Seqirus said: ‘We’ve continued to experience extraordinary demand for FLUAD across the UK and now expect to supply over 9.7m doses this season, taking total supplies further above the uptake recorded for the 65+ age group in previous seasons.’
Data from NHS Digital show there are currently about 10.3m patients aged 65 and over registered with a GP practice in England. In the 2017/18 flu season, uptake among over-65s was 73%. If this uptake is maintained, 7.5m patients will receive the jab in 2018/19.
‘We’re pleased to have been able to make additional doses available and are working as quickly as possible to respond to the demand while also continuing to meet our delivery commitments,’ she said.
The spokeswoman added: ‘To date, we’ve delivered well over 5m doses to over 8,500 providers and are on track to supply remaining doses over the next several weeks, including the additional doses, concluding by mid-November.’
GPC chair Dr Richard Vautrey said: 'Patients and practices are understandably frustrated by the problems caused by the necessary phased supply of influenza vaccination this year. However the priority must be that all patients who need it are immunised with the appropriate vaccine, even if this means waiting for later supplies to be delivered, and we have been assured that there enough vaccines for all over-65s to receive them by the end of November.'
He called for public health bodies 'to do more' to inform patients about the phased rollout of jab supplies.
Public Health England has published a poster that practices can display showing the different types of flu vaccines available this season and the clinical risk groups that they are applicable to.