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Exclusive: Flu vaccine supply will not be affected by no-deal Brexit, say manufacturers

By Isabel Shaw

07 Aug 2020

A no-deal Brexit will not impact vaccine supplies for the upcoming flu season, manufacturers have confirmed.

Two major drug manufacturers – Sanofi and GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) – who supply flu vaccines to the UK told the Pharmacist they do not think leaving the EU on the 31 December without a deal will impact drug supplies reaching the UK, including the flu vaccine.

The manufacturers’ comments follow a government letter, sent to pharmaceutical suppliers earlier this week (3 August), which urged companies to stockpile six weeks’ worth of drugs as a safeguard against ‘possible disruptions’ caused by the end of the Brexit transition period.

Major flu vaccine manufacturer Sanofi said it has been planning for the possibility of a no-deal since 2017 and has ‘taken all necessary steps to avoid any disruptions to medicine supplies.’

A spokesperson for Sanofi said a range of preventative measures have been put in place to ‘make available vital medicines and [flu] vaccines to people in both the UK and the EU’.

These include moving final release of some products from the UK to one of the other 27 European countries, altering supply chain routes to avoid disruption when transporting products, increased warehouse capacity to hold more stock, and more human resource to manage changes to customs or regulatory processes, the spokesperson said.

A spokesperson for GSK told the Pharmacist that a no-deal Brexit would not have ‘a material impact on [the] business,’ when it comes to medicine and vaccine supply.

Increased demand for vaccines

This year’s flu vaccine programme is set to target around 37 million patients – millions more than in previous years – as the Government expands the cohort for who is eligible for the free vaccine.

Announcing the new cohort last month, health secretary Matt Hancock said it is ‘mission-critical that we pull out all the stops to get ready for winter’ and ‘protect our NHS’.

In June, a number of pharmaceutical manufacturers – including Sanofi and GSK – told the Pharmacist they may not be able to meet all the increased demand for flu vaccines this year, during an unprecedented demand for the vaccine worldwide.

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