Monday , January 25 2021

Pharmacists fear a shortage of flu vaccines

In less than two weeks, half of the stockpile of flu vaccines has been used up. – DENNIS CHARLET / AFP

  • In two weeks, about half of the stockpile of flu vaccines has already been used up.
  • Faced with unprecedented demand, fueled by fears of seasonal flu and coronavirus circulating at the same time, pharmacists fear they will not be able to cope.
  • While people at risk are a priority until the end of November, it is not certain that enough stocks remain at that time to meet the demand of the general population.

Less than two weeks after the start of the annual seasonal flu vaccination campaign, supplies are already depleted and the specter of shortage is increasingly threatening. In many pharmacies, the refrigerators are already empty, and the Union of Pharmacists of the Union (USPO), the second union in the profession, warns of a shortage of stocks due to a “lack of laboratory responsibility”.

The same goes for the Community Pharmacists Federation (FSFF), which has received numerous reports of members no longer in stock. Well, will there be vaccines for everyone? If for the time being, only people at risk have a priority in getting the flu vaccine, the demand among the general population is exponential. Due to the lack of anti-covirus vaccine still available, there are many who have never been vaccinated against influenza before and who want to be vaccinated today.

“People do not understand that we do not have a vaccine for everyone”

In pharmacies, we already know that it will be very complicated to meet the demand. “We sold our four-month stocks in two hours,” said the astonished Moneta Egarns, a pharmacist at Pharmacy 164, in the capital’s 12th arrondissement. We follow the instructions and issue the vaccine only to people with a health insurance voucher who have priority. “We won second prize, but with all the people at risk who came to see us, the actions are already gone.”

About ten days after the start of the annual flu vaccination campaign, “we have already delivered 7 million doses, up from 7.5 million doses initially delivered.” 20 minutes Lesil Bonnefond, President of USPO. This means that after ten days, the stocks available all over France were only 500,000 doses, that’s nothing! Last year we delivered 11 million doses during the vaccination campaign [de mi-octobre à fin janvier]. This year, we mobilized to respond quickly to the very strong demand, while vaccinating more than two million French people in pharmacies. But we need action to keep up! “

At the start of the campaign, Health Minister Olivier Veran said: “People at risk have a priority to get the vaccine.” Directive submitted to all health professionals in a ministerial letter of 13 October. But if it is already complicated to provide a vaccine for all people at risk, meeting the demand of the rest of the population promises to be almost impossible. “We do not have enough vaccines for everyone,” said Moneta Egarns. Families with children come to see us because they want to be vaccinated, but today that is not possible. Aena, who was caring for her father with cancer, came the other day to buy a vaccine for her, on the advice of her family doctor, and I could not get it! “The government has launched its vaccination campaign, reminding us of the importance of the protection it provides, so that today people do not understand that we do not have a vaccine for everyone.”

Delayed or even blocked deliveries

This year, however, the government planned more, providing 15 million doses of vaccine, up from 13 million last year. For its part, Sanofi, which produces the flu vaccine, increased its production by 20% compared to last year to deal with the predictable increase in demand. But USPO today condemns delivery delays, blocked because “the industry has not complied with patients’ demands.” After conducting research on its members, USPO thus estimates between 70 and 90% of the number of pharmacies that are no longer in stock, just ten days after the opening of the vaccination campaign. A figure far from reality according to the Ministry of Health, which guarantees that “in the most affected regions, they would arrive in 18 to 20% of pharmacies out of stock”, according to the order figures.

In the field, “we have feedback from other pharmacies that simply did not receive their order, without any explanation,” said Moneta Egarns. We see the same situation as with the lack of masks at the beginning of the first wave. According to the instructions of the ministry, we will be able to deliver vaccines only to people who are not a priority from the end of November, but today we do not know when we will be born again, or even if we will be! “A lack of anticipation was necessary.”

“We can see today that the primary vaccines, which were not vaccinated in previous years, mobilized very early this year to receive their vaccine,” said Lesil Bonefond. But the risk of shortage is present today: this year we expected another two million doses from labs. Where are they? We do not understand this dropper strategy for delivering deliveries, complains Gilil Bonnefond. Why do laboratories keep vaccines in their refrigerators instead of giving them to pharmacists? We need today, due to the significant demand of the French – which is legitimate – to protect themselves from seasonal flu, because the simultaneous circulation with Covid-19 is terrible, and the flu vaccine allows to protect everything from one of these two viruses. “The state is trying to get these two million extra doses to make them available to pharmacies, but it certainly will not be before the end of November or the beginning of December.” For FSPF, “Ministry of Health [doit] “Take responsibility and inform the outside population and by prescribing to health professionals that there will be no flu vaccination this year, except for vulnerable people.”

“We risk arriving too late”

On the side of the Ministry of Health, we want to be more convincing, reminding that 1.2 million doses should be delivered soon. “In previous years, pharmacies did not receive their orders in full from the first day of the vaccination campaign, you always had a long-term supply,” said an avenue on Segur. Not enough to calm pharmacists. “If new restrictive measures are announced, such as re-detention, we risk arriving too late and failing to vaccinate all those at risk at the time,” Gilil Bonfend feared. But the health ministry also reminds that the flu epidemic is not over yet: “It should arrive in December-January and even later,” he said. So is there a risk that people in priority may not be able to get their vaccine? “We do not know,” said Lesil Bonefond.

And, if the state today tries to create an additional fund of two million doses of vaccines, it will not be possible to place a larger order from laboratories for this year, because the production of influenza vaccine responds to a very precise timetable. It begins each year in February, after the World Health Organization (WHO) sent a recommendation to laboratories to select the strains to be included in the vaccine, according to information provided by Sanofi.

However, even Gilil Bonefond does not want to see everything in black. “The numbers also mean that the fragile Frenchman has been vaccinated in large numbers, as have the staff at pharmacies, nursing homes and hospitals, who have been vaccinated more than in previous years.” As the seasonal flu vaccine campaign began two weeks ago, Lesil Bonnefond said “organizing a meeting with the Ministry of Health, laboratories and pharmacists in the coming days to anticipate the organization of the next vaccination campaign”.

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