GPs advised on flu vaccines for 2018/19 as NHS promises extra funds

GPs, pharmacists and CCGs have been reminded of official advice on the most effective vaccines for patients in at-risk groups and over-65s, as NHS England pledged extra funding for the 2018/19 flu season.

Flu jab (Photo: iStock)
Flu jab (Photo: iStock)

NHS England has written to remind practices and others involved in ordering vaccines that all vaccinations should be in line with advice from the joint committee on vaccination and immunisation (JCVI) and Public Health England.

Over-65s should be offered the adjuvanted trivalent vaccine for 2018/19 - which was unavailable for the current flu season because it was only licensed for use in the UK from August 2017.

Patients aged 18 to 65 in at-risk groups should be offered the quadrivalent vaccine for 2018/19, the letter says. GPs have been told that orders should be placed by 29 March this year.

The advice from NHS England comes after the BMA wrote to the national medical director in January warning that using non-adjuvanted vaccines in over 65s in next year's flu season would 'not be an effective use of resource', and highlighting the need to use effective vaccines following the high pressure on GP services from flu this winter.

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The letter from NHS England primary care director Dr Arvind Madan and national medical director Professor Stephen Powis, says all advice from CCGs on vaccine ordering must be in line with the JCVI advice. Any existing CCG guidance that does not fit with this should be amended 'immediately', it warns, 'taking into account the small window of opportunity availble for GPs to revise their ordering by switching to the clinically optimal vaccines that are now available'.

The letter adds: 'NHS England is able to confirm that there will be additional funding available in 2018/19 to support use of adjuvanted trivalent vaccine and quadrivalent influenza vaccine and that suppliers advise they will be able to meet demand. Orders need to be placed by 29 March 2018.

Dr Peter English, BMA public health medicine committee chair, said: 'The BMA is glad that NHS England has listened to concerns we first raised weeks ago and finally issued new guidance, which will hopefully ensure vulnerable patients receive the most effective flu vaccine for their age group. 

'Influenza is a potentially serious illness and we want to do all we can to protect our patients. It is important now for NHS England to ensure that no practice is penalised by suppliers for amending their orders that were made in good faith.'

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