One of the UK’s key suppliers of flu vaccines is anticipating ‘reduced availability’ of QIVe flu vaccine to pharmacy wholesalers this winter, the Pharmacist has learned.

Sanofi – which supplies vaccines for under 65s and at-risk groups – said that this was due to ‘an increase in global demand’, following recent cohort announcements for the 2021/22 season.

NHS England confirmed earlier this year that people aged 50 to 64 are expected to be eligible for a free vaccination again next season, having been included for the first time in 2020.

‘We are working closely with our wholesale customers to assess demand for our QIVe flu vaccines on a case-by-case basis,’ the Sanofi spokesperson said.

When asked if it had needed to reduce any existing orders placed by wholesalers, the spokesperson added: ‘We have reduced our volumes of QIVe flu vaccines available to wholesalers for the upcoming 2021 season, due to global demand. Customers will be contacted individually should any further reductions be necessary.’

Meanwhile, Seqirus, another vaccine manufacturer, told the Pharmacist that all its orders for the upcoming season are now confirmed and it will not be reducing any.

Helen Concilia, UK and Ireland cluster lead at Seqirus, said: ‘Following the Government’s recommendation that people aged 50-64 should receive seasonal influenza vaccination alongside the elderly and at-risk populations, we have put measures in place to cover the expanded cohort. All orders are now confirmed, and we will not be reducing any orders.’

She added that there was the potential for the Covid pandemic to ‘persist or resurge’ during this year’s flu season and that there is ‘speculation that the upcoming season may be more severe’.

‘This makes influenza vaccination more important than ever to help to protect against seasonal influenza and minimise the burden of flu on the NHS,’ she said.

Figures from the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) show community pharmacies alone vaccinated 2,617,628 during the 2020/21 programme, more than one million more than the sector achieved over the entire flu season last year.

Community pharmacies also exceeded the 2019 flu vaccine record in just two months of the 2020 service starting, vaccinating more than 1.7 million patients by November.