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Flu jab demand to continue exceeding manufacturing capacity, warns GSK

COVID-19 has seen demand for flu vaccines rise ahead of the 2020/21 season, with one manufacturer warning it expects demand to keep outpacing how quickly it can make new doses.

GSK told C+D last week (June 25) that it has seen an increase in demand for its flu vaccine and said it is “looking at all opportunities to produce and distribute more doses for 2020 and the coming years”.

However, the manufacturer anticipates that demand will “continue to outpace manufacturing capacity”, a spokesperson said.

“Due to long production times and short shelf-life, it is very difficult to quickly adjust manufacturing capacity to match changes in demand,” they explained.

"Higher than usual demand"

Other flu vaccine manufacturers have also reported an uptick in demand in the wake of COVID-19.

Mylan said demand for its flu jab has “significantly increased” due to the virus, linking this rise to the COVID-19 outbreak. The increase in demand can be seen across Europe, it said.

A Mylan spokesperson told C+D last week (June 26) that the company is “working closely with all departments of health and other key stakeholders to meet as many vaccine requests as possible”.

Seqirus also said it is seeing strong demand for flu vaccines. UK country head Helen Concilia told C+D last week (June 26) that the manufacturer is “experiencing very high demand for influenza vaccines across all markets and is increasing manufacturing to the extent possible at this stage in the production cycle”. “The UK influenza vaccine programme is one of the most successful in the world, and the high uptake in older adults in particular each year means the UK is well prepared for this population in the upcoming season,” she added.

Seqirus is “on track to provide more vaccines to the NHS than ever before”, and is “in conversations with public health partners to plan for the forthcoming flu season, drawing on our experience in Australia where innovative approaches have been taken to ensure those at-risk receive their vaccines in a safe and socially distanced way,” she said.

However, Masta said it has only experienced a “slightly higher than usual demand”. A spokesperson for the manufacturer told C+D last week (June 25) that it has “sold out of all our stock” but added that this is “usual for this time of year”.

The company is operating a waiting list that means it can “redirect stock” during the season, if customers make amendments to their orders, it said.

PHE: Ensure “maximum uptake” of flu vaccine

Dr Mary Ramsay, head of immunisation at Public Health England (PHE), said it is essential to “ensure maximum uptake of all vaccines, including flu, during these difficult times”.

PHE and the NHS “recently published advice and guidance to healthcare practitioners on maintaining immunisation programmes during the pandemic”, she added.

“We are urging anyone who is eligible to take up the free offer this winter – particularly those with underlying health conditions and pregnant women where we tend to see lower uptake,” she said.

In May, a joint letter by PHE, NHS England and Improvement and the Department of Health and Social Care urged pharmacy contractors to make sure they have enough stock of adult flu vaccines to meet the anticipated higher demand during the 2020/21 season.

Last month, the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee advised pharmacy teams to “assume” that wearing a fluid-resistant surgical mask will be “a minimum requirement” for delivering the flu service this season.

Have you ordered in flu vaccinations yet?

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