Supply and demand in the time of Covid

With a busy flu vaccination season, surgeries have had to juggle supplies with unprecedented demand

In ordinary circumstances surgeries, without a wholesale dealers license, are not permitted to share vaccines amongst themselves. Though in the past the MHRA has issued an exemption allowing this.
The DHSC recently consulted on a number of covid-19 measures. Amongst the considerations were short-term provisions to facilitate the swift and safe transfer of COVID-19 and flu vaccines under NHS or armed services’ authorised arrangements, by providing an exemption from the need for a wholesale dealer’s licence.
Several respondents to this proposal were concerned that it was unethical as it would generate profit. However the DHSC have pointed out that this exemption would only apply where an “end point user” (the NHS contracted service providers officially responsible for administering the medicine to patients) has surplus stock and wants to transfer it to another end user that needs the medicines in response to public health need.
Such measures would certainly aid vaccines to be shared between surgeries and across Primary Networks, allowing a more co-ordinated approach to vaccination. Providers should also be mindful that the transfer of any medicine should be properly controlled, and appropriate records maintained of correct storage and transfers. Following this consultation, the Statutory Instrument which would allow this to be implemented is expected to be made and laid this month. We await further information from the DHSC, but you can read the full consultation response here.

GPs will be also be pleased to hear that they can access additional flu vaccination stock to top up local supplies once they run low. Though the Department of Health and Social Care have advised that supply should only be used when there are no other alternative options to accessing more vaccines. GP practices will be provided the vaccines free of charge from the Department of Health and Social care from November onwards and they will only be able to claim an Item of service fee for each DHSC supplied vaccine that is administered.

Primary Care teams are also reminded that the flu programme has not yet been extended to include all 50-64 year olds.