NHSE&I issue guidance on flu vacs for 2021/22

NHS England and NHS Improvement (NHSE&I) have today, 4th February 2021, issued a letter providing information on the flu vaccines which will be reimbursable under the 2021/22 Community Pharmacy Seasonal Influenza Vaccination Advanced Service (Flu Vaccination Service).

It is important that all pharmacy contractors that provide the flu vaccination service review the contents of the letter and use the information contained within to inform their ordering of flu vaccine for the season ahead.

Read the NHSE&I letter on flu vaccines for the 2021/22 season

It should be noted that the reimbursable vaccines listed in the letter are not the full range of vaccines that the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) recommended for use in 2021/22.

The following JCVI-recommended vaccines will be reimbursed as part of the NHS Annual Influenza Vaccination Programme for adults in 2021/22:

Those aged 65 years and over:

  • aQIV
  • QIVc (where aQIV is not available)

At-risk adults, including pregnant women, aged 18 to less than 65 years:

  • QIVc
  • QIVe (where QIVc is not available)

The letter notes the JCVI considered the use of QIV-HD in those aged 65, however, because of a significantly higher list price, QIV-HD is not eligible for reimbursement under the NHS Annual Influenza Vaccination programme for 2021/22.

JCVI also considered the use of QIVr in both those aged over 65 and those aged 18 to 64. However, QIVr is not eligible for reimbursement under the NHS Annual Influenza Vaccination programme for 2021/22 at this stage. The letter says further guidance may be issued on this vaccine.

The letter goes on to say community pharmacies should plan their ordering on the basis of meeting at least the numbers of vaccinations they achieved during the 2020/21 season.

Contractors will recognise that the 2020/21 season included additional eligible cohorts, particularly the 50-64 year old group, compared to previous years, but the letter makes no specific reference to the inclusion of this group in the 2021/22 season. The letter does however say:

As with 2020/21, there may be policy developments to extend the eligible cohorts during 2021/22. These developments will be informed by the levels and impact of COVID-19 infection to the population. In this situation, should additional cohorts be introduced, further advice will be communicated as soon as possible.

This consequently provides a lack of clarity on the eligible cohorts and PSNC has raised this issue with NHSE&I and the need for greater clarity to help contractors properly judge the appropriate vaccine numbers to order to meet demand, but also to reduce the risk of wastage. Contractors may therefore want to determine the quantities of the various vaccines they will order informed by the vaccination numbers they achieved in the current season,  but excluding the number of vaccinations that they administered to the 50-64 year old group of patients.