GP surgeries in England have been told to order a new adjuvanted trivalent vaccine (aTIV) to ensure the most vulnerable get “gold standard” protection against influenza next winter.
The new guidance, issued in the form of a letter from NHS England and Public Health England, is intended to ensure those aged 65 and over can access a newly-licensed vaccine that was not available for the current 2017-18 season.
As previously reported by Nursing Times, the aTIV was licensed for use in the UK during August 2017 and is designed to boost an immune response that improves the effectiveness of flu protection in older patients.
In addition, the “green book” was updated toward the end of last year to reflect the availability of the new vaccine and latest advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation.
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It stated that people aged 18 to 64 who are at higher risk from flu should receive the quadrivalent vaccine, which protects against two strains of influenza A and two strains of influenza B.
As a result, pregnant women and others at risk such as those with asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease should be protected against four strains of flu for the 2018-19 flu season.
Children who are considered “super-spreaders” and are generally more susceptible to flu B, will continue to receive the nasal spray quadrivalent vaccine.
The new letter from NHS England and Public Health England advises GP practices and community pharmacists to review their orders for the 2018-19 flu season, with the deadline for orders to suppliers extended to the end of March.
“Making these vaccines available next season should offer greater protection than ever before”
Suppliers have confirmed there will be enough aTIV and quadrivalent vaccines to meet demand but GP practices and pharmacists have been told to contact their local NHS England team if they have any difficulties placing or amending orders.
It is estimated flu causes around 8,000 deaths each year in England and Wales. Figures for the week ending January 14 this year show a reported 289 admissions due to flu – believed to be the peak of this year’s season.
However, figures also show over one and half million more people got their free flu jab this year compared to last year.
Dr Arvind Madan, GP and NHS England director of primary care, said flu not only had serious health implications but also had a “significant impact on NHS services”.
“The evidence is clear so the NHS is going further to advise gold standard protection is provided.” He said. “Importantly, the public in eligible groups, can also play their part by getting their free vaccination again next year.”
Public Health England medical director Professor Paul Cosford said vaccination helped save thousands of lives each year. “We already have one of the best flu vaccination programmes in the world and making these vaccines available next season should offer greater protection than ever before,” he added.
“We’re pleased that we now have definitive guidance from NHS England”
Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, chair of the Royal College of GPs, welcomed the new guidance from NHS England about next year’s flu vaccination programme.
She said: “Our teams want the flu vaccine to be as effective as possible for as many people as possible. The national influenza vaccination programme has saved countless lives over the years.
“We look to NHS England and Public Health England – and equivalent bodies in the devolved nations – for advice when we are ordering vaccines for the next flu season,” said Dr Stokes-Lampard.
She said: “We’re pleased that we now have definitive guidance from NHS England, and we hope this will build confidence amongst patients and encourage greater take-up.
“Getting this guidance right is important, and we understand that this might take time – and that new developments based on very recent experiences might build on or alter existing advice,” she added.