Major pharmacy chain paused flu service amid over-65 jab confusion

A leading pharmacy chain temporarily suspended its flu vaccination service last week and suggested that pharmacies across England may have misinterpreted NHS guidance on flu jabs for over-65s.

Flu jab (Photo: iStock/Jovanmandic)
Flu jab (Photo: iStock/Jovanmandic)

Under guidance for the 2018/19 flu season, patients aged over 65 should be vaccinated with the adjuvanted 'aTIV' vaccine FLUAD, which is more effective in this group than the non-adjuvanted jab.

A quadrivalent vaccine (QIV) can be offered if aTIV is 'unobtainable', the guidance says - but should be offered only in 'exceptional circumstances' and only after patients have been sign-posted to other possible providers.

However, NHS flu vaccination services were suspended across all Lloyds pharmacies in England on 19 September, with the chain admitting that after a review and conversations with pharmacy staff 'it appears that there has been a misinterpretation of the NHS flu patient group direction (PGD)'.

Flu service paused

A Lloyds spokesperson said: ‘As a result, we took the difficult decision to temporarily pause our NHS flu service in England whilst we provided absolute clarity to our stores. We restarted our NHS flu service this morning (20 September) after providing clarification on the circumstances under which a quadrivalent vaccination (QIV) should be administered to someone aged 65 and over.’

The spokesperson added: ‘We have been told that other providers have experienced similar challenges and we are pleased that our prompt action has highlighted this issue before it became widespread.’

The pharmacy chain did not confirm whether patients have received the wrong vaccine, but said there had been particular confusion over ‘what represents availability of stock’.

Confusion over flu jabs at pharmacies comes after some GPs and pharmacies said their orders of FLUAD - this season’s recommended aTIV vaccine for patients aged 65 and over - had not been fulfilled.

GPs have also warned that the complexity of plans for the current flu season - with different jabs for different at-risk groups and staggered delivery of supplies of some vaccines - risks driving up workload and costs for practices.

Vaccination advice

Lloyds Pharmacy said it was liaising with NHS England and Public Health England on flu jabs, and NHS England said it would release new guidance shortly.

Ahead of the release of the guidance, GPC chair Dr Richard Vautrey said: ‘We understand that NHS England is currently working with local commissioning teams to ensure they have plans in place to support practices in ensuring that patients get the clinically recommended vaccine, and have an awareness of what stock is available in their local areas.

‘The priority must be to ensure that at-risk patients are vaccinated with the appropriate vaccine. It is important that all patients get the best protection against flu possible.’

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