Booster jabs distributed in England for the pre-Christmas vaccination push are to be thrown away because of a lack of demand, a leaked NHS memo reveals.
It is not known exactly how many vaccines will be discarded but it is likely to be “hundreds of thousands”, sources told the Health Service Journal (HSJ), which obtained the memo.
The memo, sent on Thursday from NHS England’s vaccination team to officials managing the 3,000 vaccination sites around the country, said some stocks would reach their expiry dates without being used. It urges them to try to use them up until the last minute before they have to be thrown away.
It said: “There is a quantity of vaccine in the system, which was released in December to support the booster campaign, that will potentially reach its expiry date within the next couple of weeks before it can be fully used. All sites must ensure they make every effort to use this … and prioritise it for all vaccination events coming up until expiry, as per our previous communications.”
Unused supplies that are no longer in date should be “quarantined in appropriate medical fridges” at the correct temperature, it adds. Vaccinators have been using a combination of the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna jabs in the booster campaign, which began in England last September.
Primary care bosses blamed the wastage on as many as 30% of people not turning up for their booster appointment.
“Primary care teams have given over 30m boosters, so the last thing they want is for any vaccine stock to be at risk of going to waste,” said Ruth Rankine, the director of primary care at the NHS Confederation. “They have arrangements in place with other local sites and commissioners to reduce this risk but with NHS leaders telling us that about 20% to 30% of vaccination appointments are resulting in no-shows this is a real worry.