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Pharmacists will administer COVID-19 vaccines when available

Pharmacists will be able to administer licensed or unlicensed COVID-19 vaccines as soon as they are approved by the MHRA, following a change in the law.

Following changes to the Human Medicines Regulations 2012, which came into force today (October 16), pharmacists and other healthcare professionals who already have experience in handling vaccinations will be trained to administer COVID-19 vaccines, the Department of Health and Social Care (DH) announced today (October 16).

The DH told C+D today that community pharmacists are among those who will be able to administer a COVID-19 vaccine.

Asked if pharmacy technicians will also be allowed to offer COVID-19 and flu vaccines, the DH said it will keep all options open for other healthcare professions.

The changes to the Human Medicines Regulations 2012 also allow the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) to “grant temporary authorisation, pending the granting of a licence, for new vaccines and treatments needed to tackle public health threats”.

“Comprehensive training”

Pharmacists involved in the delivery of a COVID-19 vaccine will have to complete a “comprehensive training programme”, which will include guidance on how to deal with “possible adverse reactions to a vaccine”, the DH said in its response to a public consultation on changes to the Human Medicines Regulations – which ran from August 28 to September 18.

Any new vaccinator will also need to undergo a “competency assessment to ensure they can safely administer vaccines to patients”.

The training is being developed by NHS England and Improvement along with professional groups and Public Health England, the DH said.

Vaccinators should obtain the patient’s consent before they administer the vaccine and, if they are administering an unlicensed vaccine, they need to make the patient aware of “any implications of this”.

NHS to decide on deployment

The changes to the Human Medicines Regulations 2012 apply across the UK but it will be the NHS in each of the four countries to decide who should be deployed and trained to administer COVID-19 or flu vaccines, according to the DH.

“The proposals allow each administration a clear and supportive legal framework to select their preferred deployment option.

“The creation of a new national protocol will set out who can operate under it, the training and competency requirements of any vaccinator, and any clinical considerations that must be followed,” the DH said.

While it has not yet been decided who will be allowed to administer vaccines under the national protocol, the DH is “in the process of confirming procedures for deciding this with relevant bodies”.

The DH clearly stated in its response to the consultation that it is not extending the workforce that can administer under Patient Group Directions (PGDs).

A “route for pharmacy technicians”

Pharmacy technicians are not among the healthcare professionals who can administer a medicine under a PGD, although the Association of Pharmacy Technicians (APTUK) has been asking for the profession to be included on that list.

“Although the Governments response does not provide the much-needed legislation change to enable pharmacy technicians to administer vaccines under a PGD, it does provide the route for pharmacy technicians to vaccinate under protocols,” APTUK president Liz Fidler told C+D today.

“This is extremely welcomed by APTUK and the correct thing to do at this time, increasing the numbers of healthcare professionals able to contribute to mass vaccination programmes for patient and community benefit is critical and outweighs any longer-term professional aspirations,” she added.

What do you make of the legislative changes?

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