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Small number of Well pharmacists contact PDA over hepatitis B concerns

A “small number” of Well pharmacists have raised concerns after they were asked to provide the flu jab despite not being immunised against hepatitis B, the PDA Union has claimed.

Pharmacists’ Defence Association (PDA) director of defence services Mark Pitt told C+D last week (September 20) that “less than 10” Well employees had contacted the union with concerns.

However, “we felt it was important to highlight this...due to the potential risks for members”, he added.

In its guidance on the 2018-19 flu service, the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee said pharmacists should “consider getting vaccinated against hepatitis B if [they] haven't previously had the vaccination”. It referred to Public Health England (PHE) guidance which states: “All healthcare workers who may have direct contact with patients’ blood, blood-stained body fluids or tissues, require [hepatitis B] vaccination.”

“This includes any staff who are at risk of injury from blood-contaminated sharp instruments, or of being deliberately injured or bitten by patients,” PHE said in its guidance.

Well: “Clear” guidance is available for employees

In response, Ifti Khan, NHS standards and services manager at Well, told C+D the multiple has provided employees with “clear” guidance on hepatitis B, and a training module about the virus.

“If a pharmacist needs a hepatitis B vaccine then this can be administered by another pharmacist using the private patient group direction (PGD),” he added.

Hepatitis B vaccine shortage

Mr Khan told C+D the “worldwide shortage of the hepatitis B vaccine due to manufacturing issues and some restrictions” meant priority is given to “higher risk groups”.

The flu vaccination service provided by pharmacies is categorised as “low priority”, as the “risk of exposure is regarded as low”, he added.

However, employees without immunisation against hepatitis B who have raised concerns to Well have been supported by the multiple through referral to vaccination clinics to get their “hepatitis B levels checked or to get a booster jab”, Mr Khan said.

“To date, none of our pharmacists have reported centrally that they have been unable to provide the flu vaccination service as a result of not being able to get the hepatitis B vaccination,” he added.

PDA advice

The PDA Union said it had advised “any concerned member” whose employer has requested them to provide the flu jab, but who has not been immunised against hepatitis B, “to write to their employer to the effect that the request is unreasonable”.

Has your pharmacy had issues sourcing the hepatitis B vaccine?

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