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London pharmacists await decision on Fluenz nasal vaccine

Rekha Shah says she is not aware that the Department of Health will stock the vaccine in pharmacies

The government has extended the age range of children eligible for vaccination, but Pharmacy London chief executive Rekha Shah says contractors need confirmation they will have access to the vaccine


London pharmacists remain uncertain whether they will be able to vaccinate children in the next flu season.

All children in school years one and two will be eligible to receive the Fluenz nasal vaccine for the first time this year, the Department of Health (DH) announced in its latest flu plan published last week. Most of these vaccinations would be delivered in schools, although NHS England would also have the option to commission community pharmacies, it said.

But pharmacists in London would not be able to vaccinate this age group unless they had access to the Fluenz vaccine, said Rekha Shah, chief executive of LPC consortium Pharmacy London.

Community pharmacies across the city had been trained to deliver the spray vaccine ahead of the last flu season, but it had not been made available to them, she said. Ms Shah was not aware the DH had decided to stock pharmacies with the vaccine this year, she stressed.

“Has the DH changed its minds? Are we going to have access?” she said.

NHS England head of immunisations Kenny Gibson said the decision on whether to commission pharmacists to deliver the vaccine to children would be affected by an evaluation of London’s most recent flu campaign, due to be published on April 8.

“We need to look at that evaluation to see if community pharmacy can build capacity to support the roll-out of children’s flu vaccinations,” he told C+D.

Once the evaluation was published, the 32 clinical commissioning groups across London would take “another few weeks” to design a model that could vaccinate all eligible children, Mr Gibson said.

“Our preferred option would always be GP-registered vaccinations. But given that a growing percentage of children in London don’t have a GP, we need to design something different and that’s why we’re considering pharmacy alongside other alternative providers,” he said.

This problem was “not unique to London”, and other large cities might consider a similar strategy, he added.

Child vaccinations – the story so far

Children aged two and three years have been eligible to receive the nasal spray vaccination since 2013, and the service was expanded to include four-year-olds last year. NHS England intends to extend the vaccination programme to older children in future years, it said in its latest flu strategy. 

Thirteen of NHS England’s area teams delivered a pilot version of the childhood flu vaccination programme to school-age children last year, but only two – Arden, Herefordshire and Worcestershire, and Cumbria, Northumbria and Tyne & Wear – delivered vaccinations in primary care environments such as community pharmacies.

Why should pharmacy have access to the Fluenz vaccine?

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What do you make of this story?

Fabrizio Morganti, Community pharmacist

Hi in my area we have supplied the nasal vaccine for two years but i was told no more !

Patricia Ojo, Community pharmacist

Why no more Fabrizio? What was the reason given, if at all?

Fabrizio Morganti, Community pharmacist

The original plan was to go directly to the school and do the vaccinations there but this idea has been rejected at the last minute last October. The real reason is not clear to me!

Patricia Ojo, Community pharmacist

The fact that pharmacies have been able to rise to the challenge of administering the seasonal flu vaccine to the adult population is evident. In terms of feedback, the main reasons for success certainly has been the fact that patients have the option of both walk-in as well as to book appointments. Parents come in to the pharmacies regularly, very often with their children with them and it will be quite straight forward to engage the parents to administer to the children there and then. The public has increasingly been confident in their pharmacy as a destination for many health services. This will be an addition to what we are already doing. In my own experience , uptake has gone from 50 in the first year to 150 in the second year and in the last season , over 400 vaccinations!! This is what Pharmacy can do when we are given the opportunity to do what many are capable of. Finally, much effort has gone in to training support staff on the health benefits and so capitalising on the experience is another very good reason to allow Pharmacies to help the NHS reach its public health goals.

PARESH shah, Community pharmacist

I think this service would work very well in community pharmacy. Children could be brought to the pharmacy after school hours and also during weekends when most pharmacies are open at least one day. Quite often adults who are having a vaccination ask the pharmacy team whether their children can also have the vaccination. This service could be built onto the current system very well. The one gripe I have about the London scheme is that for the last 2 years everything takes ages to be sorted out leaving us very little time for ordering stock and plannig. I hope after 2 years NHS London can get its act together and sign everything off by JUNE giving us plenty of time to get ready.

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