Individuals aged between 18 and 65 could face delays in receiving this year's annual flu vaccine. Patients expecting to have an annual boost of immunisation by October 7th are being told they may have to wait after one of the NHS’ top suppliers told GP surgeries the vaccines will not be ready in time.
Sanofi Pasteur, which makes much of the supply, has written to GPs to alert them to the situation. Estimates suggest that the company is responsible for around a third of the flu jabs administered by the NHS, meaning there are likely to be implications ahead of flu season.
Around 14 million vulnerable people in the UK took up the offer of a free flu jab last year, with 11 million of them being in England. It can take up to three weeks for vaccination to start working to protect the body, making it vital that it’s administered early.
Getting the flu can have serious implications, especially for the frail, and has led to a loss of life in some cases. Each year, around 8,000 people in England die from the flu, with most of them suffering from heart or lung problems. The best way to prevent this is through getting the injection, with awareness campaigns letting people know if they are entitled to a free dose.
The first deliveries were scheduled to reach GP surgeries by October 7th, but many will be delayed, reports the Guardian. Sanofi Pasteur has suggested that 40 per cent of the stock it had planned to distribute in this first phase will not be ready on time.
A revised timeline predicts that 25 per cent of surgeries will get their vaccinations delivered a week later and 15 per cent will see theirs arrive two weeks after the original date. That will mean some areas will not start administering the flu jab until October 21st at the earliest.
Sanofi Pasteur’s letter also confirmed the second batch of the jab will also face a delay. It said 100 per cent of the injections that were expected to be received by October 14th will be one or two weeks late. While there is currently no change to the predicted date of November 4th for the third batch, there may be a knock-on effect.
While hospital supplies will also be affected, the scale of the problem will be smaller for them, as their requirements will be prioritised. It is the quadrivalent version of the vaccine, which protects against four strains of flu that is in short supply and not the trivalent injection that provides a defence against three types.
Sanofi Pasteur has released a statement about the situation. It reads: “In 2019, multiple factors have contributed to a particularly unique year in influenza vaccine supply. WHO [World Health Organization] took the decision to select two new influenza virus strains out of the four contained in quadrivalent influenza vaccines. In addition to this, the WHO delayed the selection of one of the strains by one month.
“While we fully appreciate the WHO decision, this meant Sanofi Pasteur’s vaccine distribution commenced a few weeks later than last season. This was due, in part, to the increase in demand for Sanofi Pasteur’s influenza vaccine and the sheer volume of doses we are producing.
“Public health remains our main concern and we are doing everything we can to expedite deliveries and minimise the time doses spend in our warehouses before distribution.”
It has come to our attention that a previously-published version of this article contained some factual inaccuracies. While the Sanofi Pasteur flu vaccine is facing some delays, this is not the flu jab that is recommended for the over-65s.
The version of the injection that is offered for free on the NHS to elderly patients is in fact produced by Seqirus and they are not experiencing any delays. More than 11.5 million doses are currently being delivered to GPs and pharmacies across the UK.
This is in line with the pre-agreed timeline and will be complete by mid-October as expected. We apologise for the previous misinformation and would like to reassure you that your elderly relatives will receive their winter flu jab on time this year ahead of flu season.