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The pain of turning away flu patients because of the Fluad shortage

The manager of an independent pharmacy reflects on this season’s disrupted flu service, and considers how health professionals can come together to prevent a repeat next year

It’s only October and I'm tired. I'm tired and frustrated at having to turn away business in my pharmacy, because I can't order any Fluad vaccines for Mr and Mrs Jones who live down the road.

Why can’t I order the only UK approved adjuvanted trivalent vaccine (aTIV) that pharmacies can administer to patients over 65 years? All the signs on the ground suggest it is in short supply [despite the pharmacy minister’s insistence that it is not].

So, what is the actual cause of the disrupted service this year and what can we do to stop it from ever happening again? Who do we as a pharmacy collective need to campaign to?

Perhaps the pharmacy community, together with GP surgeries, could band together and let our grievances be known to those at the Department of Health and Social Care (DH) and NHS, who dictate to us who can have which vaccine and when. I don’t blame Fluad's manufacturer Seqirus, but I doubt they will be allowed to have the same monopoly on the market again.

We all know the hard place pharmacy is in now and we need all our revenue sources to work out for us. Not to mention our tireless efforts to keep our patients safe and healthy. This is my pharmacy’s fourth week of administering flu jabs and to date we’ve completed 253 vaccinations – but now I’m having to turn people away, and I feel that pain deep in my heart.

The only saving grace in this situation that makes me feel a bit better is that I’m not alone. Up and down the country, pharmacies and GP surgeries are running out of Fluad vaccines and can’t replenish their stock.

So, I’m left wondering: what happens to the over-65s when the stock is all extinguished? Will we be able to use the amended patient group direction to vaccinate them with the supposedly inferior quadrivalent vaccine? And how do I reassure my patients that the quad vaccines are good enough for them?

Kate Adjei is manager at Nories Pharmacy in Horsham, West Sussex


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