The provision of sufficient vaccines and personal protective equipment, changes to enable “more flexibility” in the way the flu jab is administered and a national public health campaign are necessary to deliver the programme this winter, the CCA said.
In a policy document published last week (July 10), which focuses on the community pharmacy flu vaccine programme in England, the CCA sets out changes to the service it says are necessary in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Although seasonal influenza and COVID-19 are separate diseases, the NHS is facing a “double challenge” of protecting at-risk groups from both COVID-19 and flu, the CCA said.
The representative body called on the government and NHS England to provide enough flu vaccinations to ensure that everyone in an at-risk group can receive the vaccine, and for PPE to be made available to all providers.
Change in regulations
Offering the flu vaccine in an environment that minimises the risk of COVID-19 transmission will mean “ensuring the necessary extra safety precautions, infection control, distancing and PPE are in place to protect the public and those administering the vaccine,” the CCA said.
Regulations will also have to change so that the vaccine can be administered in “different locations and in conjunction with other primary care providers,” it added.
The CCA suggested that the flu jab could be given in places such as town halls and places of worship. This would “allow the vaccine to be administered at scale, while freeing up community pharmacies to focus on vital services and medicine provision,” the policy paper said.
Chief executive Malcolm Harrison said CCA members are “ready and willing” to deliver the vaccine in different environments, such as “car parks, town halls or places of worship”, but current regulations prevent them from doing so.
A widening of the locations in which vaccinations could potentially be carried out was also proposed in an “early guidance document” on the flu service published by the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee earlier this month (July 3).
Where the jab is administered within pharmacies, the CCA suggested that part of the branch could be “sectioned off or the doors closed to walk in custom”, to enable pharmacies to “to run a flu clinic in-store”.
“We need to innovate”
Mr Harrison said the sector “urgently” needs the government and NHS to “decide how it will work differently to deliver this year’s flu vaccine”.
“We know that we will need to innovate this year, not only to meet the usual demand for flu vaccinations, but to also deliver the government’s anticipated broadening of those it wishes to receive the vaccine,” he said.
“New models for delivering the flu programme may also help the NHS deliver other vaccines, such as a COVID-19 vaccine, if and when one becomes available,” he added.
Speaking at the annual National Pharmacy Association (NPA) conference – this year held virtually – today (July 13), health secretary Matt Hancock said the government wants this year’s flu vaccine programme to be “biggest in history”, with pharmacies having an “important role to play” in the rollout of the service.