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London's free meningitis jab could be replicated nationally

A free meningitis jab service for patients aged 18-25 “could be a model for a national rollout”, the vaccination lead for London's local pharmaceutical committees (LPCs) has said.

Over 2,000 pharmacists have been trained in delivering the meningitis vaccination as part of an NHS England-commissioned service, which went live across the capital last Friday (September 1), according to Rekha Shah, pharmacy vaccination services lead for London's LPCs.

Pharmacies are well placed to deliver the vaccinations because of their ease of access, as the target patients – 18-25-year-olds – are “more likely to self-manage and visit a pharmacy before visiting a GP”, Ms Shah told C+D last month (August 25).

"Community pharmacy has never been commissioned by the NHS to offer this vaccination," she said. If successful in the capital, the service could be commissioned nationally, Ms Shah suggested.

£9.80 vaccination payment

Patients targeted for the service are a "hard-to-reach group" who "don't have ready money in their pocket", Ms Shah continued. They should be able to find a pharmacy offering the service, as "more than two-thirds" of the city’s pharmacies are involved in the scheme, she added.

The vaccination is offered as an enhanced service alongside flu and pneumococcal jabs, she said. Pharmacies are reimbursed the £30 cost of the medicine, and receive £9.80 from NHS England for every vaccination delivered. The jab is free for patients living in London.

Preventing deaths

The new vaccine inoculates against invasive meningococcal group W, which last year caused the death of a London university student, Ms Shah said.

Community pharmacies could potentially prevent any further students from dying, as well as help reduce the seasonal peak of the meningitis strain in January, she added.

In 2015-16, average vaccines for the age group in London were 10%, compared to the UK average of 17%, she said.

The number of cases of this strain of meningitis increased from 724 to 805 – 11% – across the UK in 2015-16, with adolescents accounting for 17% of cases, Ms Shah claimed.

“If we do 10,000 [vaccinations] I'll have a big smile right across my face. If we go above that I'll be singing.“

“Pharmacies in London are suffering over and above the rest of the country,“ she said. “Anything that brings them a bit more income and gives them a bit more of a foothold in the existing primary care network is helpful.“

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