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AIMp: Government’s 114 million COVID jab order reassuring for pharmacies keen to get involved

The government’s “important” order of 114 million additional Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines, to be used in 2022 and 2023, “reduces our worry for pharmacies”, AIMp chief Leyla Hannbeck has told C+D.

The deal – signed by the government earlier today (December 2) – should allow “even more” community pharmacies to get involved in the COVID-19 vaccination programme, the Association of Independent Multiple pharmacies (AIMp) chief executive officer Dr Hannbeck told C+D this afternoon.

“Before, there was the question about stock not being available to allow more pharmacies to get involved,” she said.

“But now that there is, let's move on and do it. Those community pharmacies who want to get involved [should now be able to] get involved.”

During a Downing Street news conference on Tuesday (November 30), Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that COVID-19 booster doses will now be administered at “more than 1,500 community pharmacy sites”, as well as at extra hospital hubs and mobile vaccination units.

C+D has asked NHS England and NHS Improvement (NHSE&I) and the Department of Health and Social Care for more details on the expanded number of pharmacy-led sites.

As of November 19, 1,464 pharmacy-led vaccination sites were signed up to offer COVID-19 vaccines, according to data from NHSE&I.


National pharmacy COVID-19 vaccination service “makes sense”


As the vaccination service expands, it “makes sense to make it a national service like flu”, allowing community pharmacies to get involved annually  – although much will depend “on the consistency of supply going forward”, Dr Hannbeck said.

“I think everyone is leaning toward the fact that COVID-19 is going to be with us for a long time,” she added.

“From [AIMp’s] perspective, it definitely should be a yearly service. We have absolutely shown with the flu service what a big role community pharmacy has to play in this.”

 “It's important to say that it very much comes back to the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation and how it proceeds going forward. And obviously, watching the virus mutate.

“But I think if [COVID-19] becomes something stable, it would make sense to do something like the NHS pharmacy flu vaccination  programme.”


Adequate funding is welcome, but shouldn’t be focus


On Tuesday, NHSE&I announced that primary care providers – including pharmacy-led sites – will now receive £15 for each COVID-19 jab administered from Monday to Saturday, until the end of January 2022.

Pharmacies will receive £20 per vaccination administered on Sundays and will also be offered “a £30 premium” for vaccinations delivered to housebound patients until the end of December.

But Dr Hannbeck told C+D that the focus should not be on how much pharmacies are being paid for the service.

Instead, “it should be on the fact that we are now, as a profession, being mobilised and given the opportunity to do this”, she said. “We've done a brilliant job doing that so far.”

“Obviously from our perspective, as long as it's adequately funded, that's great, but it is more about us setting out as a profession to support this movement.”


“Send bureaucratic burden out the door”


Dr Hannbeck cautioned that while it is positive that the number of community pharmacies involved in the programme could increase, this will increase the pressure on pharmacies to deliver vaccinations by the deadlines set.

“We are currently pushing for NHSE&I to suspend red tape such as the Community Pharmacy Patient Questionnaire and Pharmacy Quality Scheme,” she told C+D.

“They are  unnecessary processes that take time, particularly with all the pressure on the [pharmacy] workforce at the moment, and suspending these could give pharmacies more time to do other things.”

 “We want the bureaucratic burden to be out the door. If we want to deliver things, we have to get over all the unnecessary paperwork that our teams have to do, which puts pressure on them,” she added.

Are you/your pharmacy involved in the COVID-19 vaccination programme? Share your experiences on the C+D Community


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