Since mid-2017 the UK has experienced a shortage of hepatitis B vaccine due to global manufacturing issues. In response to the shortage, Public Health England (PHE) developed temporary recommendations on use of hepatitis B vaccine.
Vaccine supplies are now improving and more vaccine is becoming available during 2018. Supplies will remain constrained, however, due to backlog demand from 2017 and low UK allocations from some manufacturers. Supply management and some monthly ordering restrictions will therefore need to continue to prevent stockpiling.
Hepatitis B vaccine remains available for those at highest immediate risk of exposure, ie PHE priority groups 1-3 (see PHE temporary recommendations, August 2017). These include people who inject drugs.
PHE has recently published a recovery plan to support re-introduction of vaccine for lower priority group 4 in 2018 in a phased approach to maintain continuity of supply.
Commissioners and providers of drug services are advised to read the plan, share with relevant staff in their organisation – especially those who purchase and offer vaccine – noting that they can now order larger volumes of vaccine from manufacturers, and increasingly without the need for an override request.