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Pharmacies to ‘supplement’ childhood vaccination drive but GPs preferred

Pharmacies are just “an option” for integrated care boards (ICBs) looking to increase uptake of childhood vaccines because parents are “more comfortable” getting their children jabbed at GP practices, government officials have said.  

“Some” local commissioners will use pharmacies “to support” a new drive to get children caught up on missed measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccines, UK Health Security Agency (UKSHA) officials said this week (February 28).

UKHSA yesterday (February 29) announced that it will launch a new multi-media marketing campaign to improve uptake of childhood vaccinations across England on Monday, which will include “a powerful video advert told from the perspective of children”.

Uptake levels of NHS childhood vaccinations have declined over the past decade across all routine immunisation programmes, including whooping cough, MMR, polio, meningitis and diphtheria, it said.

The media campaign comes after UKHSA declared a measles outbreak “a national incident” in January and NHS England (NHSE) launched an MMR vaccine catch-up campaign.

UKSHA also yesterday revealed that in the last week alone, 69 measles cases have been confirmed in England, bringing “the total number of cases confirmed since October 1 to 650”.

But UKHSA’s head of immunisation Dr Mary Ramsay told C+D in a press briefing the previous day that only “some…areas are using pharmacies to supplement” general practice jab offers.


“Parents more comfortable in general practice”


Dr Ramsay said that “traditionally...pharmacies haven't tended to vaccinate children”.

“For obvious reasons, we know that parents are more comfortable in the general practice, because that's the normal place they go to [for] their vaccines,” she added.

But she said that using pharmacies to offer children’s vaccines is “an option for those local areas”.

“Particularly if they've got practices…under pressure [for] capacity, then obviously local pharmacies can be brought in to support that”, she added. 


Patients should have “right of choice”


Meanwhile, at the annual Sigma conference this week, Avicenna chair and community pharmacist Salim Jetha called for more pharmacies to be commissioned to offer children’s vaccinations.

“I have many patients wave their red vaccination books, seeking children's immunisation from me,” he said on Wednesday (February 28).

“What a wonderful world it would be if the patient had a right of choice”, he added. 

And in December, a new NHSE vaccination strategy set out plans to give community pharmacy “a greater role in seasonal vaccination” in the future.

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