Pharmacies in England pause online flu jab bookings as demand soars

Boots, LloydsPharmacy and Well Pharmacy report unprecedented take-up and many chemists run out of stock

Pharmacies across England are struggling to keep up with the demand for the flu vaccine, pausing online bookings and limiting it to those most in need.

The country’s three largest pharmacy chains – Boots, LloydsPharmacy and Well Pharmacy – have all reported unprecedented demand after a government vaccination campaign to reduce the pressure on the NHS during a second wave of Covid-19.

GP surgeries and pharmacies are to receive stocks of the flu vaccine in phased deliveries over coming weeks and months. But the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee said: “Some pharmacies report they are temporarily out of stock of some vaccines ahead of their next scheduled delivery and in some cases, all of their stock has already been administered to patients.”

Boots announced earlier this week that it had stopped taking bookings from under-65s who want the flu jab, after stocks ran low because of a record number of requests.

LloydsPharmacy has now had to pause online bookings owing to unprecedented demand. “In the first week of flu season we have already vaccinated 10 times more people compared to last year,” a spokesperson said. “We are reassuring customers that there are enough vaccines available for those who have booked appointments.” The company was asking customers to provide their contact details so it could get in touch when online booking resumed.

Well Pharmacy, the third largest chain after Boots UK and LloydsPharmacy, said during the first week of their flu jab service there had been a 68% increase in uptake compared with the same week last year.

default

On Wednesday afternoon it changed its online booking system to focus on those eligible for the free NHS flu jab. It said it was still offering the vaccination for £12.50 to walk-in private patients, but had removed the paid-for option from its website booking system to make sure the vulnerable could access the jab. So far, more than 40,000 people had booked.

Anyone over the age of 65 is eligible to a free NHS flu vaccination, as well as those of any age with identified health conditions. Pharmacies also offer a private service for around £13 to those who fall outside of these groups. Flu kills between 4,000 and 22,000 people in England every year, with 8,000 people dying from it last year.

The government has bought a record number of flu vaccine doses, with 30m arriving in batches. GP letters calling older people and people with medical conditions for immunisation are expected to be sent out this week.

Robbie Turner, of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, said: “We have been told by the government that there are adequate supplies of the flu vaccine. However, at a time of increased demand, some pharmacies have had to slow down the rate of vaccination … We will continue to talk with the government on the supply of vaccines and how pharmacists can support those who are most at risk.”

Contributor

Sarah Marsh

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Demand for flu vaccine soars as countries plan for second Covid-19 wave
Manufacturers warn they will struggle to meet demand as governments seek to ease pressure on health services

Ian Sample Science editor

14, Jun, 2020 @6:00 PM

Article image
GPs in England left waiting up to a month for flu vaccine supplies
Exclusive: Royal College of GPs is seeking assurances that enough doses are available

Denis Campbell Health policy editor

04, Oct, 2020 @3:09 PM

Article image
UK orders extra Covid vaccines for autumn 2022 booster campaign
Pfizer reportedly asked to supply 35m more doses, with final go-ahead for this year’s programme still awaited

Andrew Sparrow Political correspondent

11, Aug, 2021 @9:51 AM

Article image
Boots stops taking flu jab bookings for under-65s as stocks run low
Company has had ‘more people than ever’ seeking vaccination after government campaign

Sarah Marsh

22, Sep, 2020 @4:32 PM

Article image
Study reveals low Covid jab take-up among black people in England
Over-70s of black African heritage 7.4 times more likely not to have had first dose than white people, says ONS

Haroon Siddique and Aamna Mohdin

29, Mar, 2021 @12:12 PM

Article image
Boris Johnson says 'anti-vaxxers are nuts'
Prime minister urges people to use expanded programme of free winter flu jabs

Peter Walker Political correspondent

24, Jul, 2020 @9:35 AM

Article image
Will Novavax and Johnson & Johnson Covid vaccines work against variants?
Everything you need to know about the trial results for the two new coronavirus vaccines

Archie Bland and Nicola Davis

29, Jan, 2021 @7:05 PM

Article image
UK ministers secure 114m more Covid vaccines for next two years
Extra Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna jabs for 2022 and 2023 ordered to ‘future proof’ vaccine programme

Andrew Gregory Health editor

01, Dec, 2021 @10:30 PM

Article image
How is the Oxford Covid vaccine being deployed in England?
With jab to be administered to public for first time, we look at key questions about its rollout

Sarah Boseley Health editor

03, Jan, 2021 @2:10 PM

Article image
The hunt for a coronavirus vaccine – a perilous and uncertain path
The pressing need to find a solution to the pandemic means risks and shortcuts may have to be taken

Hannah Devlin Science correspondent

24, Apr, 2020 @12:04 PM