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Revealed: London pharmacies will offer children’s MMR jabs following case surge

London pharmacies will be able to offer the MMR jab due to “lower-than-average” vaccine uptake in the capital, C+D has learned.  

A surge in cases combined with a low uptake in jabs means NHS London will deploy “selected pharmacies in London's most impacted areas” to offer children’s measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccines, C+D can reveal.

Last month, NHS England (NHSE) announced a new pilot in the North West that allowed children who had missed their MMR jab to get vaccinated “at a pharmacy for the first time”.

But now, C+D has learned that “as a result of lower-than-average uptake of MMR vaccination” in London, it will undertake a similar service in the capital.

The news comes as new figures from the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) yesterday (April 15) revealed that over the last month, the “highest number” of newly confirmed measles cases in England were “reported from London” – 69 out of 195 or 35%.

An NHS London spokesperson told C+D yesterday (April 15) that the commissioner is “in the initial stages of developing the service”.

They said that offering vaccines to “unvaccinated children aged five to 19” is “one of a range of measures” the NHS is taking to “counter the threat of an outbreak”.

“London is one of the country's most impacted regions when it comes to measles” and the new service will keep London communities “safe”, they added.

But NHS London refused to tell C+D when the service will be rolled out, which pharmacies will offer it and how much pharmacies will be paid for delivering the jabs.

 

“Test the concept”

 

Earlier this month (April 2), opposition whip Baroness Merron asked what assessment the government had made “of the potential for community pharmacists to administer the MMR vaccine”.

Parliamentary under-secretary for health and social care Lord Markham said that NHSE had “worked with regional commissioners to assess the potential for community pharmacy to deliver MMR vaccines, as part of a longer-term approach to improving uptake”.

He pointed to local areas such as the North West having “stood up community pharmacy sites on a time-limited basis to deliver the MMR vaccine to specific cohorts” in response to the current outbreak.

“Using community pharmacy in this way will help to test the concept of community pharmacy playing a greater role in the delivery of vaccinations and will support…work to develop a more coherent approach to vaccines, including where, when, and how to deliver them to maximise uptake,” he added.

 

“Parents more comfortable in general practice”

 

The update comes after a “rapid increase in cases seen in late 2023…initially driven by a large outbreak in Birmingham”, UKHSA said yesterday. 

In January, health minister Maria Caulfield said that the new Pharmacy First service could “make it even easier for people to come forward” and get vaccinated against MMR.

And in February, UKHSA announced the launch of a new multi-media marketing campaign to improve uptake of childhood vaccinations across England.

But at the time, officials told C+D that pharmacies are just “an option” for integrated care boards (ICBs) looking to increase uptake of childhood vaccines.

UKHSA’s head of immunisation Dr Mary 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.

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

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

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