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Community pharmacies can access government flu stock this month

By Isabel Shaw

03 Nov 2020

Pharmacies will be able to place orders for additional flu vaccines from the Government’s central stock this month (November), the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has announced.

The vaccines will be available to order from wholesalers and community pharmacies will be required to sign a self-certification declaration before they can access the extra stock, DHSC said.

According to the guidance, wholesalers will ‘alert community pharmacies on when stock is available to order, and will advise on delivery times, ordering limits and pricing information’. The deliveries will start this month and be phased to wholesalers throughout the season.

DHSC has said it will publish a list of wholesalers that have central stock available ‘once agreements with the wholesalers have been finalised’.

Vaccinate Group A

The guidance said that pharmacies should only use this additional stock to vaccinate patients and frontline social care workers in ‘Group A’, as set out in the flu service specification.

When uptake of vaccinations among Group A can be confirmed, DHSC will notify community pharmacies that they can use additional vaccines to vaccinate patients in Group B – 50 to 64 year olds.

‘After this, DHSC may then notify community pharmacies that it is permissible to use additional vaccines to vaccinate patients in Group C,’ the guidance said, but these vaccines are not ‘claimable or reimbursable’ under the NHS service.

Wholesalers will require pharmacies to self-certify that they have already exhausted all their existing flu stocks, as well as agreeing  not to return any local stock, and to only use the extra stock to vaccinate patients specified as eligible, before being given access to additional supply.

Any unused vaccines can not be returned to wholesalers, the guidance added.

‘Regrettable’ delay on publishing guidance

Alastair Buxton, PSNC’s director of NHS Services, said: ‘We are pleased that a process for pharmacy access to the DHSC stock has now been put in place, but it is regrettable that DHSC took much longer than expected to publish the details.

‘In addition to NHS use, the stock will also be available for use within occupational health schemes for frontline health and social care workers.

‘Where there is sufficient DHSC stock available later in the season, the agreed process may also allow use of that stock for wider occupational health and non-NHS services.’

Claire Anderson, Chair of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society England, also welcomes the updated guidance: ‘With record numbers of people vaccinated this year, pharmacy is playing an incredible role in protecting those at risk during this pandemic.

‘Whilst it’s welcome that this guidance on flu vaccination stocks is now available for community pharmacists in England, it’s frustrating that it has taken this long.

‘If we’re to support collaborative working with healthcare professionals to deliver this ambitious programme, pharmacists need to be included in guidance early alongside others.’

Export of UK flu vaccines restricted

This announcement comes as pharmacies face unprecedented demand for flu vaccinations this year, after the Government significantly expanded the annual programme in response to Covid-19.

The Government has pledged to vaccinate more than 30 million people in England this year, by extending eligibility for the free flu jab to more schoolchildren and shielded patients and their households, as well as people aged 50 to 64 ‘later in the season’.

Last week, the Government announced new restrictions on the export of flu vaccine supplies, following a ‘global spike’ in demand.

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