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Flu: Pharmacies can vaccinate staff and patients in care home settings

This year’s flu vaccination programme has been extended to enable community pharmacies in England to vaccinate care and nursing home residents and staff, it has been announced.

Pharmacists will vaccinate people living or working in these settings in “a single visit, to increase uptake rates and offer further protection to this vulnerable group of patients”, according to a letter from NHS England and Improvement (NHSE&I), Public Health England (PHE) and the Department of Health and Social Care (DH) published yesterday (August 5).

“The Community Pharmacy Seasonal Influenza Advanced Service Framework will be amended to enable community pharmacies to vaccinate both residential care/nursing home residents and staff in the home setting”, NHSE&I national medical director Professor Stephen Powis, PHE medical director and director for health protection Professor Yvonne Doyle, and chief medical officer for England Professor Chris Witty said in the letter.

The government is aiming for a 100% uptake of the flu vaccine among health and social care workers this year, and a “minimum 75% uptake across all eligible groups”, the letter said.

The flu vaccination programme has this year been extended to offer the jab for free to the 50-64 age group but this change is not expected to take effect until November and December, “subject to vaccine supply”, to help providers offer it first to those most at risk, according to the letter.

The government expects that there will be an increased demand for flu vaccinations this year, and – following its decision to expand the programme to make it “the biggest in history” – the DH “has procured additional national supply of the adult vaccine and will issue guidance in September on how and when this can be accessed”.

In May, pharmacies were asked to ensure they have enough stock of the recommended adult flu vaccines for the 2020/21 season, as demand is predicted to rise due to COVID-19.

Engage with communities

“Providers are expected to ensure they have robust plans in place for tackling health inequalities for all underserved groups to ensure equality of access,” the professors said in the letter.

In an effort to protect those who are more at risk of getting both the flu and COVID-19, providers need to engage with their “local communities, employers and faith groups” to increase flu vaccination updates among “those who are living in the most deprived areas and from black, Asian and minority ethnic communities”, they added.

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