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New flu vaccine supply route proposed

By News team

A central procurement system for seasonal influenza vaccine in England has been proposed by the Department of Health as part of a package of measures to avoid a repeat of last winter’s vaccine shortage. The measures also include publication of a national seasonal (see Panel).

The DoH says that the current system of local procurement of the flu vaccine is not the best approach and that a more robust arrangement is required. Currently, GPs in England order the vaccine direct from manufacturers and their suppliers.

Under a central system — a suggestion out for this week — GPs would estimate vaccine requirements and place orders with the DoH. The DoH would hold the supply contract and place the orders with manufacturers. No changes are proposed to the arrangements for seasonal flu vaccine supplies purchased for private use, such as from pharmacies.

If GPs use more vaccine than initially requested an alert would be triggered, which would enable the DoH to make rapid arrangements with manufacturers to purchase any additional stock that is available, in order to maintain vaccine supply.

The DoH has emphasised that GPs are best placed to know how much vaccine is required and said that any procurement system will still “rely heavily” on GPs to provide accurate information on the needs of their populations so that the correct amount of vaccine can be ordered.

The DoH is seeking views from healthcare professionals and manufacturers on whether a central procurement system would make the vaccine supply system more robust and improve uptake. It also wants to hear views on the financial implications of the proposals.

The consultation closes on 17 August 2011.

New plan to increase uptake

To prevent a repeat of the vaccine shortage experienced in winter 2010/11, health secretary Andrew Lansley also launched a seasonal influenza plan this week. The plan sets out a “co-ordinated and evidence-based approach” to planning for and responding to the demands of seasonal flu across England.

The document outlines the DoH’s plans to work more closely with GPs and pharmacists to improve vaccine uptake rates in at-risk groups from 50 per cent to 75 per cent by 2014. Pharmacists should begin promoting the vaccine among at-risk groups in July, the document advises. The DoH also plans to keep a reserve of flu vaccine to ensure reliable supply by purchasing a small central strategic reserve of trivalent seasonal flu vaccine, which will be used in the event of a shortage.

Citation: Electronicjuice URI: 11077359

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