High flu vaccination demand – further stock to be put in place

flu vaccine

The COVID-19 pandemic has meant the worldwide demand for the seasonal flu vaccine has been exceptionally high, including in Northern Ireland. This will lead to a temporary pause on some aspects of the seasonal flu programme until further stock becomes available next month.

Dr Gerry Waldron, Head of Health Protection at the Public Health Agency (PHA), said: “Demand for the flu vaccine this year has been phenomenal, and we are pleased that people have acted on the call to get it to help protect themselves and their loved ones. Flu alone can be a dangerous illness, but with coronavirus also in circulation this year, it is even more important for key groups to get vaccinated.

“Primary care, pharmacy colleagues and Trusts have adapted admirably to the challenges of coronavirus to enable key groups to get vaccinated, and along with the rest of the UK we are now reaching full uptake of the allocated stock. It is important to note that more than half a million doses of flu vaccine have already been distributed in Northern Ireland – an unprecedented number at this stage of a seasonal flu vaccination programme. Indeed, we have distributed more vaccines in the past few weeks than the entirety of previous flu seasons.

“This will result in a temporary pause in the supply of vaccine for eligible people under 65, and additional controls for the distribution of the other flu vaccines,  until we receive further stock. It is great to see people getting the vaccine in such high numbers, but it does create the unusual situation of pausing some aspects until further supplies become available.”

As this is a worldwide issue, it will take a number of weeks for the vaccine to be delivered and distributed, with a plan to reopen ordering in mid-November.

Dr Waldron added: “I know this will cause some concern for people who are awaiting vaccination, but I would like to provide reassurance that  people will still get the vaccine well in time before we anticipate that flu will be circulating widely in the community.

“It also worth noting that the steps we are urging people to take to help protect themselves against coronavirus – maintaining social distancing, washing your hands regularly and wearing a face covering where appropriate – will also help protect against flu.”

The PHA and Health and Social Care Board (HSCB) have written to GP practices and Trusts encouraging them to use existing stock and asking that they notify the PHA of unused vaccine to allow redistribution to other practices that may require it.

We are also asking those administering the flu vaccine to health and social care workers to use existing stocks to prioritise those working on the frontline. If you are a health and social care worker not in this group, you should still be able to get your flu vaccine before we anticipate that flu will circulating widely in the community.

You don’t need to contact your GP at this time – if you eligible, you will be able to attend for flu vaccination when stock is available, so please work with your own GP surgery’s arrangements on this. For further information on the 2020/ 2021 seasonal flu campaign see www.nidirect.gov.uk/articles/flu-vaccine.