The plan to immunise “irreplaceable” workers aims to prevent an outbreak disrupting deliveries of the vaccine to vaccination sites, the DH explained last week (January 19).
As well as staff working for the two main vaccine manufacturers, Pfizer and AstraZeneca, those involved in the end-to-end supply chain will be vaccinated, it explained.
“While each supplier follows strict COVID-secure guidelines, the nature of the job and the close proximity of staff means infections cannot be ruled out,” the DH said.
Martin Sawer, Healthcare Distribution Association (HDA) executive director, told C+D: “We are assuming that this latest announcement […] also includes some key parts of our network, but the HDA believes that the regular supplies of all critical medicines should be supported in this way, as is the case for community pharmacy already.”
The Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) confirmed last November that pharmacy teams would receive the COVID-19 vaccine as a priority, “alongside all other health and social care professionals”.
“The process of vaccination of frontline healthcare staff, including pharmacy staff, has started in many areas,” PSNC said in guidance to contractors, with “the expectation to have made significant progress by the first week of February”.
NI and Scotland
While the DH said the initial immunisation of 2,000 supply chain workers had been agreed by all four nations, Northern Ireland’s Health and Social Care Board confirmed to C+D that it plans to vaccinate all those involved in the medical supply chain, including wholesalers.
A spokesperson for the Scottish government told C+D: “A proportion of the supply chain workforce will be offered the vaccine in line with our priority list.
“We are currently considering whether other key worker groups could be considered a priority for vaccination, once the clinically high-risk groups have been vaccinated.”