Trivalent flu vaccine may fall by the wayside

flu virus in pink

The trivalent flu vaccine may fall by the wayside as consumers take up the new quadrivalent vaccine, say two key players in the push to bring pharmacist vaccination to Australia.

“This is a transition year – a lot of pharmacists have had to commit to the trivalent, not having good visibility, back when we ordered it, of the kind of availability and demand for the quadrivalent,” says Pharmacy Guild Queensland Branch president Tim Logan.

“The technical advisory group for the influenza vaccine this year has said, ‘Look, quadrivalent is the gold standard, we recommend you get that,’ but they do give the caveat that the trivalent gives good coverage if you’re not able to get the quadrivalent.

“Consumers are, of course, seeing that they can be vaccinated against three strains or four, and saying they’ll get the four.

“So we’re finding that not a lot of people are very interested in the trivalent this year.”

Logan says he expects that quite a few pharmacists are sitting on a “whole heap” of trivalent stock at the moment, but that this might begin to move as stocks of the quadrivalent vaccine run out.

“I think the trivalent will become obsolete in the long run,” he says, “barring any sort of technical issues in the manufacture of quadrivalent vaccine.

“Even as early as next year, the trivalent may be consigned to the history books, from my observation of the market. Every consumer I’ve talked to, even where there’s a clear and significant price differential, says they want the quad, and there’s a $10 price difference in my pharmacy.

“It makes sense when you think about it: people who are likely to invest some money in preventive health will think, ‘I’m already spending $15, why not spend $25?’ even though it’s not a 33% more beneficial outcome.”

QUT’s Professor Lisa Nissen, who led the QPIP pilot, said that consumer interest may also be driven by media promotion of the new vaccine.

“There’s been a lot of media here in Queensland about our having had the worst flu season in the whole country,” Prof Nissen told the AJP.

“And so people have delayed having their flu vaccination, when given the choice between quadrivalent and trivalent, even though the trivalent was available a month earlier.”

Consumers’ ability to delay until the quadrivalent vaccine became available has been enhanced by their ability to book the procedure online, she says.

“Interestingly, most of the workplace-based vaccination programs are still using the trivalent vaccine – but these are lower-risk patients groups, and so maybe it’s not as critical that you cover a broader spectrum.”

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