Community pharmacies in England will be able to purchase more influenza vaccines this year after the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) secured additional stock in a bid to keep up with demand and boost supply.  

Last year, community pharmacies alone vaccinated 2,617,628 during the 2020/21 programme, over one million more than the sector achieved in the entire flu season in the previous year (2019/20). 

However, this year, community pharmacies are expected to ‘achieve even higher vaccine uptake rates compared to last year’, the DHSC wrote in guidance for pharmacies published last week. 

In order to reach this goal, the Government has secured additional vaccines ‘as a temporary measure for this year only’. 

These supplies will be provided to pharmacies alongside other vaccine suppliers ​’to top up local supplies once they run low and will be deployed to areas where it is most needed to maximise uptake’, the guidance said. 

‘Community pharmacies should determine if there is a need for further flu vaccines by assessing current uptake rates in eligible cohorts (taking into account booked clinics) and calculating any additional vaccines required,’ the guidance also explained.  

The guidance tells pharmacies to access additional stock directly through wholesalers and to find out from wholesalers which stocks are available.

Most vaccine stock will arrive from early November onwards, DHSC said.  

This comes as pharmacies across the country report an unprecedented increase in demand for the vaccine, which some are attributing to the heightened public health vaccination campaign and more awareness around the dangers of Covid-19 combined other respiratory issues.  

Earlier this week, Dr Jenny Harries, the UK Health Security Agency chief executive, said people who catch flu and Covid at the same time this winter are twice as likely to die than those who only have coronavirus.  

More people are eligible for the free vaccine this year, including those aged 50 to 64, having been included for the first time in 2020. This means that 60% of the population will be eligible for the jab this year. 

Community pharmacists — including all patient-facing staff, non-clinical staff and locums — are also able to receive a vaccine as part of the community pharmacy seasonal influenza advanced service for the first time. 

A spokesperson from the Company Chemists Association (CCA) told The Pharmacist: ‘There has been an increased demand of flu vaccinations this year due to the heightened vaccination campaign, public awareness around Covid-19, the expansion of NHS eligibility as well as continuing options for private vaccinations in pharmacies.’  

Dr Leyla Hannbeck, head of the Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies (AIMp), told the Mail: 'People are interested in flu vaccination in a way they were not before. There has been a sea change in opinion brought about by Covid. 

‘A lot of people now want to protect themselves going into winter, which is good to see.' 

Similarly, Claire Anderson, Royal Pharmaceutical Society president told The Pharmacist: ‘Getting lots of people to have the flu vaccination is vitally important for the health of our population, particularly the most vulnerable. 

‘Pharmacies have provided flu jabs for many years and are an essential part of the NHS team providing protection against this potentially serious illness.’ 

As of yesterday (11 October), the community pharmacy sector had already delivered over 1.7 million flu vaccines since the programme began on 1 September.