An update letter sent to one GP practice by the supplier, seen by GPonline, said vaccine deliveries would start from 22 September, with delivery notes seven days in advance of each delivery to confirm volume and a specific date.
The letter confirmed that deliveries would include the 'majority' of doses originally scheduled to arrive at this stage. It said 90% of aQIV (FLUAD Tetra) doses and 70% of QIVc (FLUCELVAX Tetra) originally scheduled for delivery around now would be provided - with the rest to follow in mid-October and early November.
Practices will be updated by 4 October to confirm the delivery date, or dates, and exact quantities of the remaining orders.
Flu clinics cancelled
The update comes after GPs were forced to cancel vaccination appointments earlier this month just days before the start of the UK's largest ever flu vaccination campaign.
Practices were forced to cancel clinics after Seqirus, the UK's largest supplier of flu vaccines, said deliveries would be delayed due to ‘unforeseen road freight issues’.
GPs warned they need specific delivery dates confirmed as soon as possible to allow them to reorganise cancelled flu clinics. The need for confirmed delivery dates has been amplified by advice published by the JCVI this week recommending that where possible COVID-19 booster doses should be offered at the same time as a seasonal flu jab.
A spokesperson for the supplier said: ‘Seqirus is proud to support the UK’s biggest influenza vaccination program with a commitment to supply more vaccines than last year. We have written to all our customers today to let them know that we have listened to their feedback and remodelled our delivery plans to provide them with greater certainty around their deliveries so they can plan their clinics.
‘The new plan will begin next week and enable all GP practices and pharmacies to receive the majority of their vaccines no more than one week after the original delivery date. As is our standard practice, delivery notes will be sent to customers seven days prior to each shipment confirming volumes and named delivery date.’
The spokesperson added that the supplier did not ‘anticipate any additional challenges to deliveries’, having resolved the issue that first caused the delays to deliveries. They said: ‘The new delivery plan will result in the majority of our vaccines for England and Wales being delivered to GP clinics and pharmacies by the end of October. The remaining doses will be delivered in November.’
Seqirus notified practices on 3 September that deliveries of flu vaccine would be delayed for up to two weeks due to 'unforeseen road freight challenges' - leaving practices facing significant extra workload to cancel appointments.
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 - and have warned that flu vaccination is a major priority to reduce pressure on the health service at a time when it could be facing a winter spike in COVID-19.