Ten fold increase in Welsh community pharmacy flu vaccinations


Since the announcement in July, by the Minister for Health and Social Services Vaughan Gething, that Wales’ would run its largest ever flu vaccination programme, take-up of the vaccine is already high.


The latest figures show that community pharmacy flu vaccinations are ten times the level this September compared to September 2019, with 16,323 vaccinations delivered this year compared to 1,652 in the same month last year.


Alongside supporting existing eligible groups, including those aged over 65 years, pregnant women and people with underlying health conditions, the programme will lower the eligibility age from 65 to over 50-year-olds – who will be vaccinated in a phased approach starting later this year.


The week, the Minister for Health, who himself is in the existing eligible group, received his flu vaccine and is encouraging others to take up the offer if they are eligible.


The Minister, who received his vaccination at the Well Pharmacy in Cardiff Bay, said:


“Every year I’m invited to have a flu vaccine due to my own underlying health condition, so I know first-hand how important it is to have it.


“This year, of course, people are even more aware than ever of the dangers of respiratory viral infection and my message is to get yourself vaccinated if you are eligible.


“We want to protect as many people as possible, particularly those who are most vulnerable in our community and continue to protect our NHS. Everyone who is eligible for an NHS flu vaccine should be confident about having it and the benefits it brings. It’s incredibly important that those working within the NHS with direct patient contact, in care homes and those providing domiciliary care protect themselves by receiving their free vaccination. I also want to encourage people to remind eligible relatives and friends to get their flu vaccine, so together we can beat flu.


“It’s encouraging to see the figures for flu vaccinations taking place in community pharmacy this September, it shows people are making the best choices to protect themselves and their families.


“GP surgeries and pharmacies have ordered sufficient vaccine supplies for those who are vaccinated year after year.  Additional supplies have also been arranged to support increased uptake in priority groups and for our expanded eligibility groups. It’s important to remember this will be done in a phased approach.


“Some of those eligible for a flu vaccine may have to wait longer than usual to secure an appointment, but I would like to reassure everyone that sufficient stocks are available for those recommended the vaccine.”


Russell Goodway, Chief Executive of Community Pharmacy Wales, said:


“Community Pharmacy Wales is delighted the Health Minister is leading by example by having his annual flu vaccination.  We are particularly pleased he has chosen, as usual, to have his vaccination at a community pharmacy.


“The community pharmacy network across Wales is gearing up for a potential second wave of COVID-19 over the autumn, fully aware that the challenges during the autumn and winter might be even more acute. To help protect the NHS at this critical time, it is more important than ever for those who qualify for the NHS flu vaccination arrange to be vaccinated and it does appear that this important message is getting through.


“86% of community pharmacies are offering the flu vaccination service this year (and this number is still growing), a 5% increase on last year, and a 10% increase on 2018/19. In terms of individual community pharmacists accredited to vaccinate, there has been a 32% rise in accreditation since October 2019.


“Most patients continue to receive their flu vaccination at their GP surgery and Community Pharmacy Wales continues to encourage patients who have an appointment at their practice to keep this appointment. GP practices and community pharmacies work together to help ensure that as many patients who need to be vaccinated can be and that, between us, we help ensure that Welsh Government targets are met. The September figures show that this provision is moving purposefully to becoming universal, and using your community pharmacy to get a flu vaccination is now the natural option for an ever-increasing number of people.”


This circular is being shared under the Open Government Copyright licence.



No national Scottish pharmacy flu service a missed opportunity


In response to the following article:


MSPs raise concerns about Scottish flu vaccination programme


Dear PIP editor,


I note the article about MSPs being concerned about the Scottish flu vaccination programme.


Patients are just as concerned.


There is a huge demand in community pharmacy and a lot of this demand is from patients who are eligible for NHS flu vaccines but are not prepared to wait until programmes commence or are so concerned by the arrangements they would just prefer to pay instead.


In some Health Boards in Scotland pharmacists can provide NHS flu vaccines yet in others, the cohorts are extremely limited and in some, there is no provision at all.


Community pharmacy in Scotland never closed its doors and stands ready to support our partners in the NHS and beyond. The ease of access and availability of pharmacists at the heart of the community make community pharmacy a willing partner to help meet the unparalleled demand for flu vaccinations this year.


I have been very proud of how our teams in community pharmacy but also in the wider NHS have handled the, at times, crazy demand for our services. The multidisciplinary team has really pulled together and community pharmacy has played a tremendous part.


That said, as it stands, a lack of a national community pharmacy flu vaccination service allowing vaccinations through pharmacy will likely prove to be a real missed opportunity.


Yours etc.




This Scottish pharmacy contractor asked to remain anonymous.



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MSPs raise concerns about Scottish flu vaccination programme


Difficulties in many areas of Scotland on the first day of this year’s flu vaccine programme have led to questions being asked about whether Scotland will be able to deliver a universal covid vaccine.


A series of MSPs raised concerns in parliament about significant problems in different parts of Scotland with people being able to get their flu jab.


The programme, which officially kicks off today, is being extended to include people aged between 55 and 64 for the first time, as well as carers and those sharing a home with people who were previously advised to shield because of their risk of contracting Covid 19.


Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie asked if the government would act quickly in response to the problems that have already arisen:


“The First Minister knows about the horrendous problems with the flu vaccine programme in Fife. Thousands of calls have been missed and there are tens of thousands of anxious and angry people.


“There have been traffic jams at flu centres in Edinburgh, and NHS Borders has apologised for problems there.


“That should be a warning to the Scottish government for the roll-out of any covid vaccine,” he said.


“If we get a covid vaccine, we need to be ready. What is the First Minister doing to ensure that the rush this week for the flu vaccine does not turn into a stampede in a few months with any covid vaccine?”


Problems in the Lothians and Borders were raised by MSPs Michelle Ballantyne and Christine Grahame, while another MSP, Neil Bibby, asked for the First Minister to intervene to ask the Renfrewshire Health and Social Care Partnership to increase the number of local vaccination centres:


“Older people in places such as Johnstone and villages such as Lochwinnoch, Kilbarchan, Bridge of Weir and Houston in Renfrewshire are concerned that the vaccine will be administered centrally from St Mirren’s football ground in the north of Paisley, and not in their own communities.


“As the First Minister will be aware, the public health advice is to avoid public transport and car sharing. A number of my constituents who are without access to a car would have to take multiple bus journeys to get to the football stadium and back.


“Some do not want to take that risk, and some will not take the risk. Does she accept that a lack of transport is a barrier for many people who need to get the flu jab?”


The First Minister told the parliament that stocks of the flu vaccine would be managed so the most vulnerable people are prioritised, adding that responsibility for delivering vaccination services rests with health boards. She acknowledged that there had been issues in some places:


“Willie Rennie mentioned the situation in Fife. NHS Fife has increased the number of call handlers and the number of staff who are working on the issue, and measures have been put in place to ensure that the resources are there to enable everybody who comes forward for an appointment for the flu vaccine to get the vaccine.


“Some people might not be aware of the fact that we are delivering the vaccine in a different way this year because of the risk of covid that would be involved in doing it in the way that we normally do it.”


Ms Sturgeon also accepted that additional mobile facilities “might well have a part to play”.


She cited a report published recently by the Royal Society saying that progress towards a successful vaccine for covid looks promising, but there may be significant challenges around finding a vaccine that has a lasting effect across all groups of people – and then being able to make enough of it, distribute it to everybody and for enough people to be willing to have it.


This story has been supplied through our partnership with our friends at healthandcare.scot. Click here to head over and have a look if you haven’t already.


GPs express concern over flu vaccine supply


The Royal College of General Practitioners has raised concerns about flu vaccine supply and delivery this coming year. The comments come in light of the expanded flu vaccination service announced recently.


Professor Martin Marshall, Chair of the Royal College of GPs, said:


“The College is supportive of measures to expand the flu vaccination programme this year as a precaution to stop the NHS, including general practice, becoming overwhelmed should there be second wave of COVID-19 this winter. The two main challenges were always going to be procuring enough supply of the vaccine, and logistics of delivering it to patients on a scale potentially twice as big as usual.


“GPs and our teams plan meticulously for the flu season every year, consistently delivering vaccination programmes on a mass scale and achieving high vaccination rates. Preparations are already underway to deliver this year’s expanded flu vaccination programme, and patients who are in at-risk groups such as such as older people, pregnant women and patients with long-term conditions and learning difficulties – who normally receive a flu jab – will already be covered by the vaccine supply that GP practices will have ordered towards the beginning of the year.


“For the extra cohort of patients included in the expanded flu programme, for example, 50-64-year-olds, we have asked for assurance from the Government that there is enough supply of vaccines to go around. If there isn’t, then GPs need clear guidance who, outside of those patients most at risk, should be prioritised for a flu jab – and there needs to be clear public messaging that this is the case to manage patients’ expectations.


“In terms of delivering the expanded flu vaccination programme, the College has produced guidance for GP practices on how to do so safely during the pandemic. Practices will likely be running evening and weekend flu clinics, as they usually do, to facilitate vaccinating a greater number of people, whilst adhering to safety measures such as social distancing guidelines. Where appropriate practices will also be thinking outside of the box, for example, by delivering vaccines in non-typical settings, such as large community centres, where multiple stations can be set up in line with social distancing measures, or ‘drive-through’ clinics.


“The flu jab is the best protection we have against influenza and it is essential that as many people in at-risk groups get their vaccination when the season begins later in the year, and the current COVID-19 pandemic makes delivering this even more important than usual.


“General practice is going to need adequate resources to deliver the expanded vaccination programme, including sufficient supply of appropriate PPE. As well as greater clarity about supply and managing patients’ expectations, we also need to know how general practice is expected to work with colleagues in community pharmacy, particularly in settings such as care homes, to ensure a joined-up and seamless vaccination programme is delivered to patients.”



50-54 year old Scots to get flu vaccine if supplies allow


Social care workers, people over 55 and household members of those who are shielding will all be eligible for the free seasonal flu vaccine.  The Scottish Government will look to extend to those aged 50-54 if vaccine supplies allow.


This winter, to protect those most at risk from concurrent infection of COVID-19 and flu, the government is expanding the vaccination programme to new groups and increasing capacity to vaccinate more people than ever before.


Groups who will continue to be eligible for the free flu vaccine include those aged 65 and over, those with underlying health conditions, pregnant women, children aged between two and five, primary school children, health care workers and young and unpaid carers.


Health Secretary Jeane Freeman said:


“The seasonal flu vaccination programme helps to protect the most vulnerable and alleviate pressure on the NHS. This will be more important than ever this year, in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.


“That’s why this flu season, we are extending free eligibility to social care workers who provide direct care, household members of individuals who are shielding, all those aged 55 and over, and those aged 50-54 if vaccine supplies allow.


“We want to reassure those who may now feel anxious about leaving home to get vaccinated. Getting the seasonal flu vaccine, especially when you have free eligibility, is one of the ways that you can support the NHS whilst protecting yourself and others this winter.


“If you think you are eligible for the vaccine, please visit NHS Inform, and if you receive a letter inviting you to get a vaccine, please follow the instructions.”


Interim Chief Medical Officer Gregor Smith said:


“Social care workers often come into contact with those most vulnerable to the seasonal flu, and vaccinating them will help to protect them whilst also providing indirect protection to the people they care for.


“Individuals who are shielding have already been identified as being at high risk from COVID-19, and this risk is heightened should they contract the virus and seasonal flu at the same time.


“Similarly, vaccinating 55-64-year-olds – as well as those aged 50-54 if vaccine supplies allow – will help to protect an age group who are vulnerable to both COVID-19 and the seasonal flu, helping to lower the risk of people getting concurrent cases of both viruses.


Karen Hedge, National Director at Scottish Care said:


“Scottish Care welcomes the announcement that social care workers will be able to access free flu jabs. This is something we have been in dialogue with the Scottish Government about for some time, and we consider this move to be a real step forward in recognising the critical role of skilled and valuable care staff, protecting both them and also those they support.”


This circular is being shared under the Open Government Copyright licence.



Flu vaccine coverage extended to 50-64 year old people this year


Providers will work to vaccinate more than 30 million people during this flu season – millions more than received it last year.


The most comprehensive flu vaccination programme in the UK’s history has been announced by the government.


A significant new group will be eligible for the free flu vaccine as people aged 50 to 64 will be invited later in the season for a vaccination.


The UK government has confirmed that pharmacists will be involved in the delivery of this revised flu campaign.


As part of an unprecedented drive, a free flu vaccine will also be available to:


  • People who are on the shielded patient list and members of their household.
  • All school year groups up to year 7.
  • People aged over 65, pregnant women, those with pre-existing conditions including at-risk under 2s.


Once vaccination of the most ‘at-risk’ groups is well underway, the department will work with clinicians to decide when to open the programme to invite people aged 50 to 64, with further details to be announced. The NHS will contact people directly, including information about where to go to get the vaccine.


Health Secretary Matt Hancock said:


“It’s mission critical that we pull out all the stops to get ready for winter, and the Prime Minister has already announced £3 billion to protect the NHS.


“We are now taking another important step to help protect the wider public by giving the flu vaccination to more people than ever before. This will be the biggest flu vaccination programme in history, and will help protect our NHS as we head into winter.


“If you are eligible for a free vaccine, whether it’s for the first time or because you usually receive one, then I would urge you to get it, not just to protect yourself, but to protect the NHS and your loved ones, from flu.


“The flu can be a serious disease, especially for vulnerable people or those with underlying health conditions.


“Eligible groups are urged to get their free vaccine every year. However, with COVID-19 still in circulation, this year’s campaign will be particularly vital to protect the most vulnerable and reduce the number of people needing flu treatment from the NHS.”


RPS Director of Pharmacy and Member Experience Robbie Turner said:


“The Government’s plan to expand the flu vaccination programme is excellent news. It will help patients, ready the NHS for the risk of a second peak of coronavirus and relieve winter pressures on A&E and emergency care.


“The seasonal flu campaign helps protect vulnerable groups from winter flu by offering free vaccinations. Flu is a potentially fatal condition and the significant expansion of the programme will protect the health of many more people.


“Pharmacists have been an integral part of the vaccination programme for several years, so it makes sense for them to help deliver this expanded programme. Pharmacies are typically open longer hours than GP surgeries and can often offer vaccinations at any time, making them a very convenient and easy way to protect the public against flu.”


Chief Medical Officer, Professor Chris Whitty said:


“Flu can have serious consequences and vulnerable people can die of it. Having the vaccine protects you, and helps reduce transmission to others.


“This winter more than ever, with COVID-19 still circulating, we need to help reduce all avoidable risks. Vaccinating more people will help reduce flu transmission and stop people from becoming ill.”


Dr Vanessa Saliba, Head of Flu at PHE said:


“The flu vaccine is the best defence we have against what can be a serious and even deadly illness.


“This winter, more people than ever will be offered a free flu vaccine. We are urging anyone who is eligible to take up the offer of vaccination. By getting the jab, you can help protect yourself, your family and the NHS – it will help save lives.”


Dr Nikki Kanani, GP and NHS medical director for primary care, said:


“Getting a free NHS flu vaccination is a quick and simple way that people can help to save lives and reduce pressure on our hardworking frontline staff this winter.


“GPs, nurses, community pharmacists and others will be going to great lengths this year to give this vital protection to millions more people in a safe and convenient way, so when the time comes I would urge everyone invited for a flu vaccination to get it as soon as possible.”


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