Unprecedented demand for flu vaccines in pharmacy in 2020 highlights the importance of planning now for the 2021 season, says one stakeholder
Acting Chief Medical Officer of the Commonwealth, Professor Paul Kelly, recently wrote to health sector leaders pointing out that demand will be high in 2021 – so planning needs to start now for the next flu season.
“A record number of seasonal influenza vaccines were made available for the Australian market in 2020, with the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) releasing over 17. 6 million doses.
“This is up from 13. 2 million doses in 2019 and 11 million doses in 2018,” Professor Kelly wrote.
“Influenza vaccination will be more important than ever given the ongoing nature of the COVID-19 pandemic, and it is anticipated that demand for influenza vaccines will remain high next year. Noting the demand experienced this year, now is the time to consider your private market ordering requirements for next year,” he said.
Pharmacy Guild national president George Tambassis cited this communication in a message to Guild members, in which he encourages pharmacy owners to start preparing for flu season 2021 now – if they haven’t already.
“The growth in the flu vaccine private market has been significant over the past few years, but of course 2020 saw exponential and unexpected growth in demand because of the onset of COVID-19 and because 2019 was such a bad flu season, prompting consumers to seek out vaccination in record numbers,” Mr Tambassis wrote.
“As all pharmacy owners know, 2020 saw such a surge in early demand for vaccination that many pharmacies ran out of stock, and had to wait weeks for the newly commissioned stock to be manufactured and distributed.
“Pharmacy wholesalers advised that their stock holdings are largely determined by pharmacy pre-orders and indicative delivery schedules. Pharmacies that did not do pre-orders have reported difficulty in accessing vaccines this year.
“While demand in 2021 is an unknown, I think we can assume it will be higher again, as the pandemic has put health and immunity at the top of mind for us all.”
Mr Tambassis said the “obvious message” from Professor Kelly’s letter is for owners to start contacting their preferred wholesaler now, “to ensure you have sufficient stock for the next flu season”.