Annual flu letter for 2023/24 published
The Department of Health and Social Care, the UK Health Security Agency and NHS England have jointly published the national flu vaccination programme letter today (25th May 2023) for the 2023/24 season.
The letter confirms the eligible cohorts for the 2023/24 season and the vaccines which will be reimbursable under the Community Pharmacy Seasonal Influenza Vaccination Advanced Service (Flu Vaccination Service).
The Government has confirmed that 50 to 64 year olds not at clinical risk are not included as a cohort for this coming season.
Although there has been no change to the recommended vaccines that will be reimbursed for adults in the 2023/24 programme, the advice regarding when second line vaccines can be used has been strengthen.
The letter states that second line vaccines should only be used when every attempt to use first line recommended vaccines has been exhausted – evidence of this may be requested by NHS England before reimbursement is agreed.
For those aged 18 to 64 years in eligible clinical risk groups, the letter advises that while egg-grown quadrivalent influenza vaccine (QIVe) remains a second line vaccine, there is a potential advantage to using flu vaccines which do not use eggs in the manufacturing process (cell-culture or recombinant). Due to this, the recommended first line vaccines avoid the possible impact of “egg-adaptation” on the effectiveness of flu vaccines, particularly against A(H3N2) strains.
Commenting on the publication of the letter, Alastair Buxton, Director of NHS Services, PSNC said:
“While the publication of the annual flu vaccination letter is welcome, it is unforgivably late and this has not helped pharmacy owners to finalise their plans for the forthcoming season.
“The protracted delay is likely to have undermined the confidence of pharmacy owners, which given the current financial pressures, may have resulted in some of them ordering less flu vaccine stock than in previous years to reduce their financial risk.
“We are disappointed that after three years of including people aged 50 to 64 years old as a cohort, that the Government has opted not to include them in this year’s programme. We hope that the Government will ensure this change, along with the reasons for it, are properly communicated to the public and not left to pharmacy teams to deliver.
“We would encourage pharmacy owners to read the letter and take note of the strengthened advice regarding the use of second line vaccines when planning their service provision this season.”