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‘Pharmacy will compromise too much by scrapping the 15-minute post COVID jab wait’

Pharmacy has already jumped through hoops and compromised enough during the pandemic, says Nana Ofori-Atta. That’s why I think we should reject the plan to scrap the 15-minute wait post COVID-19 vaccination

“The long-term decisions on the 15-minute wait, when the current need for extreme speed of vaccination and boosting is over, should rest with the Commission on Human Medicines, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency and the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation.

“If ministers agree then this should be a temporary measure on the grounds of public health need to protect as many citizens as possible over a short period of time. How the 15-minute suspension is operationally implemented should be determined by each nation."

This was the message from the Department of Health and Social Care last week, but there’s something that doesn’t sit right with me about scrapping the need for patients to wait 15 minutes after receiving their COVID-19 vaccination. Hear me out.

During this pandemic, the one healthcare sector that has bent over backwards in order to accommodate and aid in the delivery of services has been community pharmacy. We kept our doors open when most other health services would not allow patients in. We worked with less staff in frankly dangerous conditions, at one point with no personal protective equipment or guidance on how to keep ourselves and our staff safe.

But despite all of this, when we were called upon to help deliver COVID-19 tests, we answered. When we were asked to deliver COVID-19 vaccines, we answered. When we were asked to work extended hours to keep up with demand again, we answered. The world of community pharmacy has in many instances compromised on a lot in order to accommodate the government and the public, but the one area we should not compromise on is patient safety.

Ministers should definitely be voting on how to include more pharmacists in the delivery of COVID-19 vaccines and how to remove red tape to allow more pharmacies to join the national vaccination programme. But removing the 15-minute wait post vaccination is not the answer. The need for the wait is to ensure patient safety after receiving the vaccine, in case of an anaphylactic reaction.

My worry is how easy will it be for a patient to access help when a patient experiences an adverse reaction to the vaccine after leaving the pharmacy. In the world we live in now, a patient could be miles away from the pharmacy or a source of help within those 15 minutes. Who is then responsible for the patient? As pharmacists, we know the burden of carrying responsibility for a patient even after they have left our premises.

The idea that we can identify patients who are likely to have an adverse reaction due to past reactions or medical history is a hoax and every medical professional knows this. Because not all anaphylactic reactions are predictable. Are we then just taking a chance on that one patient’s life?

There is an argument that scrapping the observation period is to help more pharmacists participate, due to the need to allow social distancing. But the same provision has to be made for flu jabs, and yet a lot more pharmacies are currently allowed to offer flu jabs, when they are denied access to providing COVID-19 vaccinations. If we could do it for flu, what’s then to say we are not capable of doing it for COVID-19 vaccinations?

I cannot help but feel removing this wait time is just another government sticking plaster, instead of just paying more pharmacies to participate in the COVID-19 vaccination scheme.

Seeing as pharmacies across the country have been jumping at the opportunity to offer COVID-19 vaccines, only to be denied the opportunity to do so; it seems to me that using the available and willing healthcare professionals wanting to help the vaccination would be a much better use of resources, rather than risking patient safety.

As healthcare professionals, community pharmacy has compromised enough, but we should never compromise on patient safety.

 

Nana Ofori-Atta is clinical and custom content editor at C+D 

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