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PCN pharmacist: What I've learned from our COVID-19 vaccine hub

Juggling the usual GP surgery workload while administering 975 COVID-19 vaccines a week is difficult but manageable, says Danny Bartlett

When the highly anticipated rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine happened, as a primary care network (PCN) pharmacist working in GP practice, I was apprehensive. The rapidly changing environment and guidance made it almost impossible to plan ahead. This had a knock-on effect on the feelings of staff towards the vaccine in general.

But the vaccine hub in one of the GP practices I work in, in Worthing, West Sussex, is up and running, and it has been going very well.

We have trained up our pharmacy technicians and healthcare assistants to form the brunt of the injecting workforce, supported by GPs, pharmacists and nurses. The introduction of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine has been very effective at reducing the time it takes to prepare the doses as it does not require dilution, unlike the Pfizer/BioNTech vials, allowing for a much quicker turnover of patients.

We have moved to a paperless form of administering the vaccine. This means allowing the electronic data to be submitted while the patient receives the vaccine via PharmOutcomes. In Worthing, we are one of three vaccine centres that are responsible for vaccinating the whole town’s population.

“Pharmacies are a key resource”

The decision to primarily roll out the vaccine programme in more GP practices than pharmacies is deeply frustrating. Having to juggle our already increasing workload while having to use 975 doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine a week before they expire is very hard indeed.

I am not alone in thinking community pharmacies are a key resource in the COVID-19 vaccine delivery, as they have been so useful in delivering flu vaccines. A collaborative effort in sharing ideas and information can do nothing but help.

There is one key logistical hurdle to overcome. Patients need to be observed for any adverse effects or allergic reactions for 15 minutes post-vaccine. This could pose a problem in smaller pharmacies that don’t have the use of larger venues.

Danny Bartlett is a senior clinical pharmacist for the Coastal & South Downs Care Partnership PCN


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