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Pharmacies in England smash 2020/21 flu vaccination record in under two months

Community pharmacies in England have administered almost 2.9 million flu vaccines since the 2021/22 programme began less than two months ago.

In under two months since the launch of the national flu programme on September 1, community pharmacies in England have vaccinated 2,877,705 people against the seasonal flu, according to data collated by the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) as of yesterday (October 25).

A PSNC spokesperson told C+D today that the organisation has just added data collected through Sonar to its spreadsheet reporting 2021/22 flu figures.

In 2020/21, pharmacies in England administered a total of 2,766,332 vaccinations – 62% more than the 1,718,147 flu vaccines delivered during the 2019/20 flu season.


Top vaccinated cohorts


Almost half (46.6%) of those who were vaccinated in a community pharmacy are aged 65 or over, according to PSNC’s analysis of the data – which does not yet include Sonar data.

The second most vaccinated cohort includes those aged 50-64 years old (41.8%), followed by those with chronic respiratory disease (3.6%) and diabetes (1.2%).

In July, the Department of Health and Social Care (DH), Public Health England (PHE) and NHS England and NHS Improvement (NHSE&I) told flu vaccine providers that flu levels in the UK could be up to 50% larger than typically seen.

As a result, the government and health bodies have been preparing “the most comprehensive flu vaccination programme in UK history”, offering more than 35 million people a free flu jab.

Last month, NHSE&I also announced that all frontline primary care health workers, including locums, were eligible “to receive their vaccination from community pharmacy”.

“For this year only,” the Community Pharmacy Seasonal Influenza Advanced Service specification has been updated to reflect this change, NHSE&I added.


Community pharmacy “increasingly significant part” of vaccination programme


The Association of Independent Multiple pharmacies CEO Leyla Hannbeck told C+D: “This is compelling evidence that community pharmacies, which bravely remained open throughout the flu pandemic despite the risks, are increasingly seen as first port of call for members of the community to meet their basic healthcare needs.

“It also showcases that Sajid Javid is thinking in the right direction and understands that communities trust and value their local pharmacies. We need the government to invest in us so we can maximise the health of local people in our communities.”

Commenting on the new record, Company Chemists’ Association (CCA) CEO Malcolm Harrison told C+D that the CCA is “very proud of the role that CCA members and the community pharmacy sector as a whole have played”.

He added: “This further demonstrates that the community pharmacy sector is becoming an increasingly significant part of the nation’s vaccination programme.”

National Pharmacy Association CEO Mark Lyonette told C+D: “Vaccinations have become a firmly established aspect of community pharmacy’s public health role, but there are still people who don’t know this option exists for them, so more promotion is needed.”

He added: “It’s yet another demonstration of the can-do attitude of pharmacy teams, which step up to every challenge laid before them.

“These flu vaccination numbers show the value of providing convenient access to healthcare close to where people live, work and shop.”


Workload must be managed safely


Speaking at the Pharmacy Show in Birmingham earlier this month (October 17), former PSNC CEO Simon Dukes told delegates that “pharmacies are on track to deliver more than three million vaccinations for the first time this year”.

“And it's no surprise given the accessibility and convenience of pharmacies, that patients are flocking through the doors for their vaccinations.”

He added: “But I know that coping with this record-breaking demand will have been no small feat. This is just another example of the resilience of community pharmacies and their ability to step up whatever the NHS needs.”


Safety-first approach


The Pharmacists’ Defence Association (PDA) revealed earlier this month that pharmacists were “prioritising a safety-first approach to flu vaccinations”.

Commenting on the record number of flu vaccinations delivered by pharmacy teams in England so far, PDA Union director Paul Day told C+D: “Achieving record levels of contribution to the vaccination programme should help raise the profile of what might be possible, and it is encouraging that year on year people are seeing their community pharmacy as a convenient option to get their vital vaccinations.”

The PDA wants “politicians and other decision makers to build on this, and to utilise the full possibilities of what the sector can bring to the public”.

“However, this must be done safely and to be funded properly, as we cannot continue to have pharmacists risking their own wellbeing to deliver ever increasing targets in under resourced circumstances.

“Pharmacy employers need to resource their branches to levels that all workload can be safely managed within the available hours.

“That includes enough trained members of the team available on shift and a second pharmacist to provide services, while the responsible pharmacist has control of the pharmacy, when necessary.”


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