The DHSC is running the UK’s most comprehensive flu programme ever in the 2020/21 flu season, with more than 30 million people being offered flu jabs. In order to support this expanded programme, the government has secured an additional supply of flu vaccines to top up supplies once they run low, and has sent out guidance to GP practices on how to order from the central supply.
More than 10 million vaccines have already been sent out to GP practices and pharmacies in the UK, with a further ‘20 million scheduled for delivery in October, November and December,’ the DHSC has said.
The guidance states that GP practices should first assess if there is a need for further flu vaccines by assessing current and expected uptake rates. They can only order from the central supply once their local stocks are depleted and must only order enough to cover their expected demand as they cannot be returned.
Although flu vaccines will be offered to people aged 50 to 64 years under the expanded programme, the additional supply should be administered to those at-risk groups such as over 65s, pregnant women and those with pre-existing conditions, as well as frontline health and social care workers. Those aged 50 to 64 will also be eligible for a free vaccine but will be invited later in the season.
The government has also said that 'a pre-set proportion of this additional stock will also be made available to Trusts and community pharmacy, and the arrangements for them to order against this stock will be confirmed shortly.'
The government's central supply guidance comes after shortage concerns were recently highlighted by the RCGP after just one in four GPs were confident their practice would have enough stock to meet demand.
NHS Deputy National Medical Director of Primary Care, Dr Raj Patel said: 'Frontline NHS staff are working harder than ever to prepare for winter and have seen significant increase in demand for the flu vaccination, so access to additional supply will be very well received by GPs and patients alike. GPs and pharmacies will continue to offer regular, timely flu vaccines to eligible groups, making particular efforts to prioritise the most vulnerable.'