In a letter published on Wednesday, NHS England revealed that the new cell-grown quadrivalent vaccine QIVc - licenced for use in the UK last week - had been deemed safe and effective across all age groups by the government’s vaccination advisory committee.
This follows a ‘complex’ 2018/19 flu season, which saw GPs delivering different jabs - some of which were subject to a ‘phased’ delivery process - to different at risk groups, resulting in longer wait times for patients and increased workload for GPs.
Although the standard quadrivalent inactivated vaccine (QIVe) is still recommended for 18- to 64-year-olds in clinical at-risk groups and other eligible groups, and the adjuvanted trivalent inactivated vaccine (aTIV) is still recommended for patients aged 65 years and over, all groups of patients over the age of nine will be able to receive the QIVc vaccine as part of the 2019/20 campaign.
The letter, sent by NHS England’s national medical director Professor Stephen Powis said: ‘The vaccines recommended for the 2018/19 season continue to be recommended for the 2019/20 season... In addition, QIVc - Flucelvax Tetra - is now licensed for use in the UK for patients aged nine years and upwards.’
He also confirmed that the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) considers QIVc to be ‘equally suitable’ compared with both QIVe and aTIV.
The new QIVc vaccine will be supplied by Seqirus, the company who supplied the aTIV vaccine for the 2018/19 season.
GPC clinical and prescribing lead Dr Andrew Green told GPonline: 'After last year’s difficulties it is vital that GPs get all the information they need about next year’s campaign as soon as possible, so that they can place firm orders. The availability of different vaccines this year does complicate matters, and it is up to each practice to make their own decision about which type to use.'
In September, Dr Green advised GPs to start ‘dusting off’ contingency plans for a possible flu pandemic this winter.
Speaking at the time, he said: ‘We never know when the next flu pandemic will strike. [However] the shortest period between 20th century pandemics was 12 years, and we are already nine years after the last one, so all practices should be dusting off their pandemic plans now.’
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