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Pharmacies urged to ensure flu jab stock can meet COVID-induced demand

DH, PHE, and NHSE&I: "Concerns about COVID-19 may increase demand for flu vaccination"
DH, PHE, and NHSE&I: "Concerns about COVID-19 may increase demand for flu vaccination"

Community pharmacies have been asked to ensure they have enough stock of the recommended adult flu vaccines for the 2020/21 season, as demand is predicted to rise due to COVID-19.

Community pharmacies and GP surgeries should “urgently review” their vaccine orders to ensure they meet “at least national ambitions and previous uptakes rates, whichever is highest”, NHS England and Improvement (NHSE&I), Public Health England (PHE) and the Department of Health and Social Care (DH) said in a joint letter to contractors today (May 14).

Primary care providers should make sure there is enough stock across their primary care network and should adjust their orders with their suppliers if necessary, according to the letter.

Increased demand

Chief medical officer for England Professor Chris Witty, PHE medical director and director for health protection professor Yvonne Doyle and NHSE&I national medical director Professor Stephen Powis, who co-signed the letter, said they realise “the flu immunisation programme is likely to be more challenging because of the impact of COVID-19”.

“We anticipate that concerns about COVID-19 may increase demand for flu vaccination in all groups this year, and some in at-risk groups may have concerns about maintaining social distancing when being given the vaccine,” they wrote.

The national health bodies also expect “universal vaccination of health and care workers” and said more guidance on this would be shared “in due course”.

The “most vulnerable”

The pandemic makes planning for the flu service more difficult due to “the uncertainties of staff absences” and social distancing measures, Professors Witty, Doyle and Powis said.

However, they added that in the healthcare sector “we must do all we can” to protect those most at risk from flu, who are likely to also be “most vulnerable to COVID-19”.

“Providers should aim to schedule their immunisation services to match vaccine supply, usually from September, and complete vaccination by the end of November, where possible,” the letter said.

The list of groups eligible to receive the flu jab free of charge in 2020/21, under the NHS-funded flu vaccination programme, is the same as last year. However, this might change if the programme is expanded, according to the letter.

“Discussions to consider expansion of the flu programme for this autumn are underway, and we will write again with any changes in due course,” the professors said.

Alastair Buxton, director of NHS services at the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee, told C+D today that there will “undoubtedly be some changes to the way in which the NHS flu vaccination service is delivered this year in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and new social distancing requirements”.

“As usual, we will be negotiating those details with NHSE&I as soon as they are in a position to do so. In preparation for the 2020/21 season, at its meeting next week PSNC will be considering how the flu vaccination service might work differently in community pharmacies this year,” he added.

The recommended vaccines for the 2020/21 service are the adjuvanted trivalent influenza vaccine (aTIV) or the quadrivalent influenza vaccine (QIVc), if the aTIV is not available – for those aged 65 and over. Under-65s at risk should be administered the QIVc or, as an alternative, the egg-grown quadrivalent influenza vaccine (QIVe).

What do you make of the flu vaccination letter?

Uma Patel, Community pharmacist

Any thoughts about the logistics of providing this service in a busy pharmacy with social distancing, putting on PPE  in between doing all the normal work??

Adam Hall, Community pharmacist

I think PHE should kiss by chubby backside if they think I am going to increase my purchasing because they say so. PAY ME TO DO IT AND I WILL but I will be slapped backwards with a fresh kipper if I will risk my money to do their bidding when all they do is ask us to bend over and whistle  'Halleluah'!

Conor M, Community pharmacist

Finally we have a date for when GP surgeries will reopen haha

Sunil Patel, Pharmacy owner/ Proprietor

Absolutly essential that any supply issues are addressed and that there are no ambiguities in the service specs this year.

Farmer Cyst , Community pharmacist

Inside the chemist's, Pht's will be forced to risk contracting Covid19 in order to line the contractors pockets as much as possible. Imagine a busier season than normal, hundreds upon hundreds of patients will be squeezed into consultation rooms with the poor Pht.

I hope Pht's demand adequate renumeration for putting their lives (and the lives of anyone they live with!) at risk.

Soon-To-Be Ex-Pharmacist, Superintendent Pharmacist

I'm afraid that we will be paid naff all as per usual for doing the services and any who lose their lives, well there's always more where that one came from.

Conor M, Community pharmacist

Do you have a twitter account or something, I'd be quite interested to talk to you some more as a proverbial sacrificial lamb?

Soon-To-Be Ex-Pharmacist, Superintendent Pharmacist

No I don't. I avoid social media like the plague because I get into arguments on it and it doesn't do my blood pressure any good! I think I may have said to you before - don't sacrifice yourself on the bloodstained altar of Pharmacy. Maybe get a couple of years experience (you most certainly gain life experience working in Pharmacy) then while you are still young enough do something you'll enjoy. I've come to realise that as pharmacists, rather than being stuck as pharmacists (the 'what else can I do' syndrome) we have an enormous amount of skills that can be transferred to any number of jobs. Tolerance of idiots is one of the skills you will learn and which would come in very handy in almost any other job. I genuinely wish you well, Lee, whatever you decide to do, but I would also GENUINELY urge you to consider not being a pharmacist for any longer than you absolutely have to.

Ronald Trump, Pharmaceutical Adviser

No doubt the multiples will be pressurising pharmacists to do as many flu jabs as they can with the constant barrage of emails and ring- arounds from regional managers, with no extra support or decent remuneration. Like many others, so glad I got out of community pharmacy! Only good thing lately is that locum rates have gone back up to where they should be. 

Uma Patel, Community pharmacist

Tesco has closed all consulting rooms

Joan Richardson, Locum pharmacist

Locum rates back up - please don't tell a certain person at the top of the GPhC!

Benie Locum, Locum pharmacist

He'll be foaming at the mouth with rage. 

C A, Community pharmacist

I'll bet he will, while enjoying his own £85/hr salary...

Soon-To-Be Ex-Pharmacist, Superintendent Pharmacist

They'll come back down quick-sharp once the post-covid cuts bite.

I feel for all of the employee pharmacists of the multiples, especially if the covid antiboby testing becomes a reality. The pressure will be utterly obscene then but will anything get done about it by our representative bodies? Will it hell! I can't wait to leave this dogs breakfast now.

SP Ph, Community pharmacist

I do not understand why it is the Community Pharmacy always asked to step up with less or no resources? This year Seqirus has not offered any sale or return on its vaccines at all. Last year many smaller Pharmacies ordered loads of vaccines hoping the uptake will be very high and ended up with almost 40% of the vaccines being left cooling the fridge shelves (extra fridge bought specially for the vaccines at extra cost not funded by the DHSC) 

And now, even if the Pharmacies wish to buy more stocks, where are the stocks? and when will they be delivered? in February?

Most of the vaccinations for eligible patients are over by the end of December at the most and the delivery for many Pharmacies does not start untill November !! What kind of fairness is this? 

The DHSC better get hold of the situation and may be buy the vaccines themselves in line with their own advice of ""at least national ambitions and previous uptakes rates, whichever is highest"" and then distribute them accordingly. Why push someone hard when they have no control over the stock availability. Simply foolish.

V K P, Community pharmacist

who will pay for the over ordered wasted doses? PSNC, NHSE or C&D?. 

we would appreciate to have that guarantee in writing at the earliest. thank you.

Some thought about providing the service while maintaining social distancing must be needed as well surely? I'm absolutely dreading flu season-how on earth will we manage it? 

Joan Richardson, Locum pharmacist

They are having a laugh.  Vaccine stocks are out of our hands - talk to the manufacturers!

Will there be any pharmacies left to give vaccines?  Funding is at rock bottom and the advance to help with Covid is going to be clawed back.

I wonder if the GP surgeries will magically be able to open their doors to let in patients requiring a flu vaccination!  I know they are carrying out childhood vaccinations but they are spread out all year and don't require large numbers of people to be in a surgery at any one time.

N O, Pharmaceutical Adviser

St***d People. Don't tell Pharmacies, tell the manufacturers.

1. Ordering during the normal period itself is difficult, as the delivery dates are based on first come first serve basis. Many Pharmacies don't get deliveries till end November even when ordered as early as January 2020.

2. How does the demand change due to covid? The patient eligibility list hasn't changed, the flu vaccine does not do anything to COVID-19 and you think people who refused last year will all of a sudden rush to have their Flu vaccine??

3. There are not many suppliers for the 65+ vaccine (in fact only 1) and they won't supply through the normal Wholesaler route anymore. So better get the manufacturers to release the vaccine in to the market and then we will order if the demand goes up.

Soon-To-Be Ex-Pharmacist, Superintendent Pharmacist

People will think the flu vaccine will help against covid - you know the sort, the same ones who fill their kids up with calpol when they have a cough.

Benie Locum, Locum pharmacist

How much ££ per hour for pharmacists administering flu jabs this scoming season  I wonder ?

Conor M, Community pharmacist

For the boss, a sale's a sale!

Soon-To-Be Ex-Pharmacist, Superintendent Pharmacist

For the pharmacist, it's another unwanted chore for no gain, only loss when they go back to the dispensary to catch up on the twenty waiters who came in while they were doing the flu jab!

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