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GPhC urges pharmacy workers to get COVID jab even if not required to by law

The regulator has called on pharmacists and pharmacy technicians to get vaccinated against COVID-19, following the health secretary's decision to make getting jabbed mandatory for staff working in Care Quality Commission- (CQC) registered businesses.  

Sajid Javid announced yesterday (November 9) that COVID-19 vaccines will become mandatory for all NHS and social care staff in England.

From April 1 next year – “subject to parliamentary approval” – affected staff will have to provide evidence of vaccination to continue working in certain health and care settings.

However, the requirement will only apply to pharmacies that undertake CQC-regulated activities, such as prescribing and other non-pharmacy related services. It will also apply to pharmacists and pharmacy technicians working in GP practices and hospitals.

Most community pharmacists and their teams are not covered by the mandate, C+D reported in September, because the majority of pharmacies are not regulated by the CQC.

But in response to Mr Javid’s announcement, the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) urged all pharmacy professionals, “wherever” they work, to get the vaccine in a statement released today (November 10).

“We noted in our response that the government was not proposing to extend the legal mandate to people working in pharmacies regulated by the GPhC,” chief executive Duncan Rudkin said.

“We strongly urge pharmacists and pharmacy technicians to get COVID-19 and flu vaccinations at the earliest opportunity, unless they are medically exempt, and ask them to encourage other members of their team to get vaccinated as well,” he added.

 

 ”Unique responsibility” to reduce harm

 

In his address to the House of Commons yesterday, Mr Javid said that everyone working in health or social care had a “unique responsibility” to “avoid preventable harm to the people they care for” and to "keep each other safe”.

The new regulations “will apply to health and social care workers who have direct, face-to-face contact with people while providing care,” the Department of Health and Social Care (DH) noted in a statement following the health secretary’s announcement.

Those who are medically exempt or do not have direct contact with patients can choose not to be vaccinated, Mr Javid clarified in his address.

The decision followed the feedback from two consultations carried out this year, the first of which resulted in making COVID-19 jabs mandatory for all care home staff. The second, which concluded in October, proposed making COVID-19 and flu jabs compulsory for all frontline NHS staff.

The question of mandatory flu vaccines for frontline staff will be kept “under review”, Mr Javid said.

 

RPS: “Informed consent preferable”

 

In response to Mr Javid’s announcement, chair of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) English pharmacy board Thorrun Govind told C+D: “We believe that informed consent is preferable to mandatory vaccination for health and care workers in England and we will continue to urge pharmacists to take up the vaccine, wherever they work.”

The RPS is worried that “this policy will remove people from frontline care in a system that is under pressure and this could affect patient care”, Ms Govind continued.

The professional body asked that clear guidance be shared with employers "as to what they are to do regarding a pharmacist’s eligibility to work if they choose not to be vaccinated” following news of the DH’s consultation on making COVID-19 and flu jabs mandatory for frontline NHS workers, C+D reported in October.

There was concern within the RPS at the time that making COVID-19 jabs compulsory could create some confusion within the pharmacy sector, as only some pharmacy contractors will have to ensure their staff are fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

 

Do you think COVID-19 vaccines should be mandatory for pharmacists?

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