NHS England and Public Health England wrote to pharmacists and GPs in February to tell them that the adjuvanted trivalent vaccine (aTIV) is “now the best option for all 65s and over”.
Seqirus, which manufacturers Fluad – the only aTIV vaccine that will be available in the UK – told C+D last month that the increase in orders following NHS England’s announcement meant that any new orders for the vaccine would not be delivered until October.
However, Seqirus has since confirmed that orders for the vaccine “will be re-phased, once they have all been placed, with the aim of giving all customers split deliveries across September, October and November”, according to the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC).
This is “to ensure all pharmacies and general practices receive at least some of their order of aTIV early in the season”, PSNC said last week (March 29).
Four million doses will be available for delivery in September, followed by two million and three million aTIV vaccines by "mid-October" and "early November" respectively, according to the negotiator.
“Some” October deliveries brought forward
Seqirus told C+D this morning (April 4) that “those who were told they would receive [aTIV vaccines] in October will now receive some in September”.
“The arrangements are a fair and equitable approach to all medical professionals,” the manufacturer said, and “apply to everybody”, regardless of when their order is placed.
“We are confident we’ll meet the commitments set out in [the NHS England letter] and the schedule” for the 2018-19 flu season, Seqirus added.
PSNC said it “supports” the re-phasing approach, “which should ensure that pharmacies, general practices and, most importantly, patients will have equitable access to the vaccine”.
Following a request from PSNC, Seqirus has also “extended the window for ordering aTIV” by two weeks, from March 29 to April 12, the negotiator said.
It advised contractors to review their existing orders for the 2018-19 season, ahead of the new deadline.
Pharmacist predicts flu season “shambles”
Reacting to PSNC’s announcement on Twitter, Nat Mitchell, pharmacist and director of JWW Allison & Sons Ltd in Cockermouth, Cumbria, said he did not “want [his] orders ‘re-phased’”.
“I was organised and ensured that my patients would get the vaccine they needed ASAP,” he said.
“I can see this season being a shambles, with one supplier of aTIV vaccine.”
When NHS England announced its vaccine guidance in February, City and Hackney local pharmaceutical committee chief executive Hitesh Patel raised concerns that the commissioner was "putting all its eggs" in one basket by relying on one supplier for over-65s.