Boots has suspended NHS and private flu jab bookings for under 65s, citing ‘unprecedented levels of demand’.
The pharmacy chain said it still has ‘some stock available’ of the Trivalent vaccination, which is recommended for anyone aged 65 and over, and bookings for these customers remain open.
A spokesperson for Boots said on the flu jab: ‘We know that this year, our customers have been more conscious than ever about protecting the health of themselves and their families, and protecting against flu has been front of mind for many of us.
‘As a result, we have seen more people than ever booking early to get their flu vaccinations. We have been closely monitoring our stock levels, and made the decision this weekend to pause taking new bookings for our private and NHS under-65s flu vaccination services. This is to make sure we can vaccinate the patients who have already booked their appointments with us.’
They added: ‘We are still able to continue supporting the NHS over 65s Flu Vaccination Service due to stock availability of the trivalent vaccination, which the NHS recommends for people aged 65 and over.’
Public Health England (PHE) is encouraging all eligible people to get a flu jab this winter, after its research suggested the risk of death is more than double for people who tested positive for both flu and Covid-19, compared to those with Covid-19 alone.
A spokesperson for Superdrug, which offers a walk-in flu service for NHS and private customers, told Pulse’s sister title the Pharmacist yesterday (22 September) that their services ‘are operating normally with no issues around supply’.
Meanwhile, LloydsPharmacy is dealing with a backlog of appointment requests, with its website asking customers to enter an email address and register their interest for a flu jab, so the company can let them know when it’s possible to book a flu vaccination.
A spokesperson for LloydsPharmacy said it has seen ‘unprecedented demand for flu vaccinations this year’ but is ‘reassuring customers that there are enough vaccines available for those who have booked appointments’.
They added: ‘We are currently making improvements to our online booking to cope with the increased demand and we are asking any new customers to provide us with their contact details if they wish to have a flu vaccination so that we can contact them as soon as these upgrades are in place.
‘We anticipate this to be resolved in the next 24 to 36 hours where the online booking of appointments will resume. This is a constantly evolving situation, and we are monitoring appointment levels closely and releasing new spaces as soon as they become available.’
Some independent pharmacists also told the Pharmacist they have decided not to offer a private service at all this year.
Claire Field, pharmacist at Carbis Bay Pharmacy in Cornwall, said: ‘In a normal flu season we would do about 500 to 600 vaccinations, but we think demand for vaccinations is going to outstrip our supply, so we want to prioritise people in the at-risk and clinically vulnerable groups first, and they don’t have to pay.’
Sid Dajani, superintendent and IP at Wainwrights Chemists in Bishopstoke, is offering both the free and private service, but said he had to add to his initial vaccines order to meet predicted demand.
He said: ‘This year I upped the usual amount by 15% as I had a feeling what was happening with Covid-19 would increase demand – and then when it was announced that the over-50s would also be eligible for a free vaccination from November I called my supplier back and asked for another 10% on top.
‘We are as best prepared as we can be at this stage, but I’ve already had other pharmacists asking me if I can sell them my vaccines.’
It comes as PHE this week said that GPs and patients with flu symptoms should stay at home and isolate.
This story was first published by Nursing in Practice’s sister title the Pharmacist.