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NHS England rejects expensive over-65 flu vaccine for 2019-20 season

Pharmacists will be able to administer only two of three available flu vaccines for over-65s next season, as NHS England has deemed the third too costly.

As well as the adjuvanted trivalent vaccine (aTIV) – which is the only vaccine pharmacists are allowed to administer to this age group this flu season – NHS England has today (January 23) said they will be able to deliver the cell-grown quadrivalent vaccine (QIVc) next season.

In November, NHS England said it was considering a high-dose trivalent vaccine (TIV-HD) as a third option for the 2019-20 season.

However, while this vaccine has now been licensed for use in the UK, at £20 per dose it “has a significantly higher list price than the equally suitable vaccines”, and so will not be commissioned, NHS England medical director Stephen Powis said in a letter to flu service providers.

Pharmacies will not be reimbursed for using the TIV-HD vaccine next year, Mr Powis stressed, and the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) advised pharmacies not to purchase or administer it.

The announcement of an additional vaccine for those aged 65 and over follows repeated concerns raised by pharmacies in England about difficulties sourcing a large enough supply of the aTIV vaccine Fluad – which is solely manufactured by Seqirus. In October, Kate Adjei, manager at Nories Pharmacy in Horsham, West Sussex, told C+D she had to turn patients away because her pharmacy had used all its Fluad stock.

As per this season, pharmacies will be able to administer the standard egg-grown quadrivalent vaccine (QIVe) to patients aged 18-64 years next season.

While the QIVc vaccine – Flucelvax Tetra, also manufactured by Seqirus – has been licensed and is recommended for use in 2019-20, it has not been added to the list of recommended flu vaccinations for the current season, PSNC stressed.

NHS England recommended providers order the aTIV, QIVe and QIVc vaccines ready for the start of the 2019-20 flu season in September.

Read NHS England’s letter and PSNC’s summary.

What do you think about NHS England's announcement?

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