NHS Flu Vaccination Service (changes for 2021/2022)

NHS Flu Vaccination Service – will be directed to the PSNC website

National Flu vaccination service changes for 2021/22

For most healthy people, influenza (flu) is an unpleasant but usually self-limiting disease. However, older people, pregnant women and those with underlying diseases are at particular risk of severe illness if they catch it.

As a result of non-pharmaceutical interventions in place for COVID-19 (such as mask-wearing, physical and social distancing, and restricted international travel) influenza activity levels were extremely low globally in 2020 to 2021. As a result, a lower level of population immunity against influenza is expected in 2021 to 2022. In the situation where social mixing and social contact return towards pre-pandemic norms, it is expected that winter 2021 to 2022 will be the first winter in the UK when seasonal influenza virus (and other respiratory viruses) will co-circulate alongside COVID-19.

Seasonal influenza and COVID-19 viruses have the potential to add substantially to the winter pressures usually faced by the NHS, particularly if infection waves from both viruses coincide. The timing and magnitude of potential influenza and COVID-19 infection waves for winter 2021 to 2022 are currently unknown, but mathematical modelling indicates the 2021 to 2022 influenza season in the UK could be up to 50% larger than typically seen and it is also possible that the 2021 to 2022 influenza season will begin earlier than usual.

Influenza vaccination is therefore an important priority this coming autumn to reduce morbidity and mortality associated with influenza, and to reduce hospitalisations during a time when the NHS and social care may also be managing winter outbreaks of COVID-19.

This means that as a temporary measure the offer for 50 to 64 year olds will continue this year to protect this age group, as hospitalisation from COVID-19 also increases from the age of 50 years onwards.

As a temporary measure, the programme will also be extended this year to 4 additional cohorts in secondary school so that all those from years 7 to year 11 will be offered vaccination. Vaccinating children reduces transmission of influenza and JCVI have recommended that expanding into secondary schools would be cost-effective, particularly if COVID-19 is still circulating.

PSNC has worked with NHS England and NHS Improvement to agree some changes to the community pharmacy Flu Vaccination Service for 2021/2022

Accessing DHSC flu vac stock

In order to achieve even higher vaccine uptake rates compared to last year, DHSC has secured an additional supply of influenza vaccines, as a temporary measure for this year only. These vaccines will be available for NHS trusts, general practices and community pharmacies, to top up local supplies once they run low and will be deployed to areas where it is most needed to maximise uptake.

The Department have tried to align the process for accessing the stock with the supply route via which pharmacies normally receive their flu vaccines, seeking to limit the impact on business-as-usual supply chains.

What stock will be available?

DHSC has ordered additional stocks of QIVc, QIVe and QIVr, with the stock arriving in November. DHSC will sell some of their centrally procured stock to the pharmacy wholesalers, for onward sale to pharmacy contractors.

Unlike the situation during part of the last flu vaccination season, no restrictions will be placed by DHSC on the use of the stock, e.g. on private use of the vaccine.

How to order the stock

The DHSC guidance advises contractors to assess whether there is a need for further flu vaccine by assessing current uptake rates in eligible cohorts and calculating any additional vaccines required. If contractors would like to order more stock, they should contact their regular wholesaler to access additional stock and follow the wholesaler’s process for ordering stock – contractors will pay for the flu vaccines in the usual way.

DHSC guidance

Claims for payments must now be made using the NHSBSA Manage Your Service (MYS) platform

The changes are contained within the service specification and the Patient Group Direction, which have been published.

The service will commence on 1st September 2021,

More info in PSNC briefing –PSNC-Briefing-023.21-Guidance-on-the-Seasonal-Influenza-Vaccination-Advanced-Service-2021-22.pdf

All documents and up to date details are on the PSNC website –https://psnc.org.uk/services-commissioning/advanced-services/flu-vaccination-service/