With two COVID-19 vaccines now approved for use in the UK, pharmacists are likely to be facing questions from patients about the safety of the vaccines – and may have some queries of their own.
Oksana Pyzik, the lead on an infectious diseases programme at University College London’s School of Pharmacy, says in a C+D podcast that pharmacists will be “critical” for reassuring patients on safety by telling them about the rigorous testing and regulation of the vaccine.
Ms Pyzik explains how vaccine concerns had been on the rise before the COVID-19 pandemic, the impact of which is visible in the rise of measles. In England, measles cases rose from 265 cases in 2017 to 968 in 2018 according to Public Health England, despite the disease being preventable with a vaccine.
There is a paradox of higher levels of public scepticism accompanying the strongest science and most stringent regulatory checks we’ve ever had, she says. “I think that this anti-vaccine [concern] is a symptom of something larger than just the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Ms Pyzik is the founder of University College London’s campaign against counterfeit medicines, Fight the Fakes, which raised awareness of its cause through Fight the Fakes week from December 7-13 last year.
“Regulators will also have to work very closely with law enforcement to prevent diversion, theft and falsification [of COVID-19 vaccines] both physically and online,” Ms Pyzik says.
Her words follow the Interpol global police co-ordination agency warning its 194 member countries, including the UK, that criminal networks are targeting COVID-19 vaccines.
You can listen to the podcast below. Alternatively, subscribe to C+D's podcasts by searching “Chemist+Druggist podcast” on your preferred app or on Soundcloud.
Ms Pyzik says the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine requires specialised storage, requiring temperatures of around -70°C. Pharmacy contractors delivering vaccines should note Pfizer says they can be stored for up to five days between 2°C and 8°C.
Find out how you can get involved in delivering COVID-19 vaccines here.
Please note the sound quality of this podcast may be affected because it was recorded remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic