The pharmacy support and buying group for independent pharmacies has registered its interest in delivering the COVID-19 vaccination programme with NHS England and NHS Improvement (NHSE&I) and NHSE&I has “acknowledged and noted our interest for the future”, managing director Bharti Patel told C+D yesterday (December 16).
Avicenna is offering vaccination training to pharmacy technicians working in both its retail and member branches, “in response to the proposed changes in legislation allowing technicians to vaccinate in pharmacies”, Ms Patel added.
Currently, only pharmacists and a few other registered healthcare professionals can administer the COVID-19 under a patient group direction, while pharmacy technicians can administer vaccinations under a patient specific direction.
“By training pharmacy technicians now, we are future-proofing our members and retail branches,” Ms Patel said.
Due to the nature of the Pfizer/BioNtech COVID-19 vaccine – which needs to be stored at -70˚C before being thawed out and refrigerated at a temperature range between +2˚C and +8˚C before being reconstituted – Ms Patel said pharmacies are unable to offer this service from their premises at the moment.
However, Avicenna hopes that pharmacies will be able to “support the national effort” in the future, she added.
“Ideally placed to deliver the COVID-19 vaccination”
Avicenna currently counts 1,242 members, of which “a significant number” are already trained by Avicenna to deliver different services.
“2020 was our biggest year ever for flu vaccination training, so these members would be well placed to support a COVID-19 national vaccination effort”, Ms Patel said.
The organisation trained around 800 people on flu vaccinations alone this year, which they had to do differently due to COVID-19 restrictions.
“We launched web-based and face-to-face training with social distancing. Those members who were doing training for the first time received a very extensive course, including resuscitation,” Ms Patel said.
“I hope that, with the COVID-19 vaccine, the government sees pharmacy as an ideal route to offer that vaccine because we have already demonstrated the ability for community pharmacy to play a significant role in delivering vaccinations.
“In our Avicenna retail pharmacies alone, we are estimating we will administer up to 20,000 vaccinations for flu, so we’re ideally placed to be able to deliver the COVID-19 vaccination safely within a community setting – and we’re ideally placed to be handing out vitamin D to vulnerable people as well,” Ms Patel added.
Last week, C+D reported that Rowlands pharmacies will not be involved in vaccinating patients with the recently approved Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine.
Only a “limited number” of pharmacies in England will be selected to start administering the vaccine from “late December or early January”, while some health boards in Scotland could commission community pharmacies to help with local vaccination programmes.