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Shortage of pneumonia vaccine caused by Covid-19 concerns

By Isabel Shaw

28 Oct 2020

The UK is facing a shortage of the pneumonia vaccine due to an ‘unprecedented’ and ‘unexpected’ surge in demand, the vaccine’s manufacturer has said.

The pneumonia vaccine, Pneumovax 23, is given to older adults and adults with certain long-term health conditions to prevent pneumococcal disease.

Demand for Merck Sharp and Dohme Limited’s (MSD) product has increased rapidly during the pandemic, as healthcare professionals and individuals look to ensure protection against preventative respiratory diseases as Covid-19 circulates.

‘Viral respiratory diseases [such as Covid-19] have been shown to increase the risk of respiratory bacterial infections including pneumococcal disease’, a spokesperson from the manufacturer told the Pharmacist.

As a result, there has been a big focus this winter on getting older and more at risk individuals protected against illnesses like the flu and pneumococcal disease, MSD said.

Earlier this week (22 October), the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) issued a vaccine supply notification, stating that supplies of Pneumovax 23 pre-filled syringes (PFS) will be ‘very limited’ until early next year (January 2021).

Ordering stocks

MSD said it was ‘working with national health authorities to ensure that those individuals at highest risk of pneumococcal diseases, such as the elderly, and adults with certain risk conditions, are prioritised accordingly’.

Maximum ordering quotas have been put in place to ensure ‘equitable and appropriate’ of the vaccine during this period, PSNC said.

‘Supplies can only be ordered from the wholesaler AAH, please place orders via the usual channels,’ they added.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson commented: ‘We are aware of intermittent supply problems of the adult vaccine Pneumovax 23 due to unprecedented demand. We are working closely with suppliers and the healthcare system to ensure that patients who need the vaccine most can get it.

‘We are continuing to do everything we can to help speed up future deliveries and Public Health England has issued comprehensive clinical guidance on how to prioritise those who should receive this vaccine.’

DHSC confirmed that no supply issues were affecting the PCV13 vaccine used in infants and toddlers.

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