Flu vaccinations delayed due to supply issues

October 6, 2014

Some pharmacies and health clinics in the United States and Canada are waiting on quadrivalent influenza vaccine, after production issues this fall. Clinics that had expected to receive the vaccine by mid-September are now forced to wait until mid-October.

Some pharmacies and health clinics in the United States and Canada are waiting on quadrivalent influenza vaccine, after production issues this fall. Clinics that had expected to receive the vaccine by mid-September are now forced to wait until mid-October.

“A lot of our [Illinois] health departments are pushing back [health clinics] until mid-October,” said Amanda Minor, administrator of the Douglas County Health Department in Tuscaola, Ill. The Health Department had vaccine clinics scheduled for late September, which have been delayed until mid-October, after Sanofi Pasteur pushed shipments of its quadrivalent vaccine back from mid-September to early or mid-October. High doses of the vaccine are not expected to arrive until November.

“We are not able to compete. We are in a rural area, without Walgreens and hospitals nearby. We are the ones going out in the community,” Minor said.

Other clinics and pediatricians’ offices are also reporting that the influenza vaccine is unavailable to them.

One vaccine manufacturer, GlaxoSmithKline, said that its vaccine delays in the United States and Canada are due to manufacturing challenges at one of its facilities in Quebec. The problems began in June, following an FDA inspection.

 

“The FDA issued a warning letter at the time and a remediation plan was put in place. Production schedules were disrupted, which has led to being a bit behind,” said Rob Perry, director of U.S. external communications.

While the company is behind in shipping the vaccine, it will have mailed out all of its doses for the year – around 26 million – by mid- to late-October. “We have tried to distribute what we have on an equitable basis, to physicians’ offices, pharmacies, and others. Some customers have been impacted to a greater degree than others,” Perry said.

However, GlaxoSmithKline is not the only manufacturer experiencing shortages, because of a mix of manufacturing problems and earlier demand for the vaccine, according to Perry. “It wasn’t unusual in the past to ship the vaccine in mid-October. But, very early this year, pharmacies and clinics have been advertising that they had flu vaccines,” he said.

The increase in flu vaccine marketing by pharmacies and clinics is a good thing, Perry stressed. “Pharmacies have become much more proactive in positioning themselves as vaccinators. You can’t drive by a major national chain without seeing ads for vaccines. The goal of everyone is to improve upon vaccination [rates],” Perry said.