Pharmacies have been advised they should order alternative vaccines from an approved list, after Sanofi has said its recombinant quadrivalent influenza vaccine (QIVr) would not be available for this year’s flu programme.

In addition, the start date for the 2024/25 adult flu vaccination campaign has been confirmed as 3 October, NHS England announced in this week’s primary care bulletin.

A letter updating providers on plans for the 2024/25 flu vaccine programme said Sanofi had communicated to the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) that its QIVr would not be available.

‘Providers should order alternative vaccine for adults based on the 2024 to 2025 influenza vaccine recommendations of the JCVI,’ the letter from NHS England, the UKHSA and Department of Health and Social Care continued.

For older adults (those aged over 60 years), this includes use of the high-dose quadrivalent influenza vaccine (QIV-HD), which will be available in 2024 to 2025 in the UK market (see also table below).

The QIV-HD vaccine is also produced by Sanofi and is one of six available of a list that includes the nasal flu vaccine for children.

‘Alternatively, further orders of other first line vaccines, the adjuvanted quadrivalent influenza vaccine (aQIV) for those aged 65 years and older and cell-based quadrivalent influenza vaccine (QIVc) for those under 65 years, should be made,’ the letter advised.

As QIVr is only licensed for those aged 18 and over, there is no impact on the children’s vaccination programme, practices have also been told.

Suzanna McDonald, head of flu programme at UKHSA, said: ‘An alternative adult flu vaccine for the 2024/25 programme will be available this year after being notified by the manufacturer that the vaccine originally procured by providers will not be available.

‘The alternative is one of the vaccines recommended by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisations and the flu programme will be delivered as scheduled.

‘GPs and flu vaccine providers may also order other JCVI approved vaccines as alternatives.’

Sanofi has been approached for comment.

Meanwhile, NHS England has confirmed that this year flu vaccinations for adults will commence on 3 October, but pregnant women and children should receive their jabs from September 1.

In a bulletin sent out this week, NHS England said that despite the JCVI having ‘not yet advised what will be required of a possible COVID-19 vaccination programme beyond 31 August 2024’,  providers should still plan for any COVID-19 campaign to start alongside the main flu campaign.

‘Eligible cohorts will be confirmed following Government’s consideration of JCVI advice,’ it said.

PCNs and other providers that wish to participate in this year’s Covid vaccination programme are being reminded there is a new sign-up process. They must complete an online form on the NHS Business Service Authority webpage by 23:59 on 27 June.

A version of this article first appeared on our sister titles Management in Practice and Pulse.

What vaccines can now be offered to adults based on JCVI advice?

Aged 65 years and over: aQIV or QIV-HD. QIVc may also be considered if others are unavailable.

Aged 18 to 64 years in eligible groups:

For those aged 18-59 years – QIVc

For those aged 60-64 years – QIVc or QIV-HD.

QIVe may also be considered if others are not available.