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COVID-19 vaccine: Clarify pharmacy role and ensure supply, bodies urge

A change in the law has enabled pharmacists to administer COVID-19 vaccines

Industry bodies have welcomed news that pharmacists can administer COVID-19 vaccines but called for clarity on their part in such a roll-out and assurances on access to vaccines.

Last week (October 16), the Department of Health and Social Care (DH) announced that – following a change in the law – pharmacists and other healthcare professionals will be able to administer a future COVID-19 vaccine, after completing a “comprehensive training programme”.

Gordon Hockey, director of operation and support at the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) said in a statement today (October 19) that “it is not yet clear what role primary care will play in vaccination roll-out”.

“As well as a role in offering any COVID-19 vaccination, PSNC is pressing for community pharmacies to have a central role in the distribution of any COVID-19 treatments to patients,” Mr Hockey added.

“Community pharmacies have had a central role in the response to the COVID-19 pandemic so far, and this should continue as new treatments and vaccinations become available,” he said.

National Pharmacy Association (NPA) policy manager Helga Mangion said the organisation thinks pharmacies will “have a crucial role to play in ensuring as many people as possible get protected by any future COVID-19 vaccine”.

“Provided the appropriate safety, quality and efficacy measures have been put in place, the NPA is supportive of the deployment of effective and legal mechanisms for bringing this pandemic under control,” she added.

Learn from flu season issues

Leyla Hannbeck, CEO of the Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies (AIMp) told C+D today that the organisation welcomes last week’s announcement but that lessons on ensuring the availability of COVID-19 vaccines must be learned from the issues encountered by pharmacies delivering this year’s flu vaccination service.

“Procurement has been a costly balance of risk versus usage for pharmacies nationally. A COVID-19 vaccination cannot be compromised by intermittent access to the vaccine,” she said.

“We are confident that with seamless availability, pharmacy can demonstrate its critical role in public health,” Ms Hannbeck added.

What do you make of the legislative changes?

Leon The Apothecary, Student

The Ebola Vaccine, one that was considered to be put through a very "expedited" process, took five years to make. It hasn't been a year yet for Covid.


Locum Pharmacist , Locum pharmacist

So it is now clear that pharmacists will be involved in the COVID-19 vaccine role out. As a pharmacist this gives me huge concerns. We have always been trained to advise appropriately on medicines knowing that they have had years of clinical testing with side effects generally well establised.

How possibly can we provide a patient with any advice prior to administering their COVID-19 vaccine ??. This vaccine when it comes onto the market may have 6 months to a year at the best of trial data. Any long term potencial side effects are completely unknown. I believe it is also a new type of technology of vaccine working on the mRNA, again we just don't know what the long term consequences of this could be on the human body. To add to this mixture, it could potencially be administered without a PRODUCT LICENSE and nobody including the drug company holds liability should an individual suffer vaccine damage, this is absolute MADNESS !!.

Just imagine, 'Mrs Smith' comes into the pharmacy and before you administer her COVID vaccine, she says nervously, 'I'll be ok won't I, it won't cause me any problems will it ??!!'. 

I call upon all my pharmacist colleagues, who like myself entered this profession to benefit the community and help people with their health and ailments, to ask yourself sincerely from the heart...... can I really look my patient in the eye and give them this vaccine telling them they should be absolutely fine ??. Just be honest with yourself and don't forgot your evidence based science from all these years behind you. You all know the answer to this.

Sadly, many corporates will no doubt try and push pharmacies to deliver this as much as possible, do not be pushed, stand your ground, together as pharmacists we can become united and say, 'we are healthcare professionals here to aid the people, not to cause harm or injury and we are not machines just to make money at the expense of potencial human harm'.

Stand strong !!

Soon-To-Be Ex-Pharmacist, Superintendent Pharmacist

'we are not machines just to make money' - that wholly depends on who you work for - if it's Boots/Well/Rowlands/Lloyds then I'm afraid that is precisely what you are.

Although I won't be giving the vaccine because I'm not renewing this year, hypothetically speaking, whether I would or wouldn't would depend upon the level of responsibility I would take in the event of anything going wrong, the disclaimer the patient would have to sign BEFORE the vaccine was administered and whether or not I would have to actually endorse the product. I get where you are coming from regarding administering an unlicensed product but I think we have to treat everyone as adults so my response to your Mrs Smith would be honesty, telling her I didn't know whether or not she would be OK and that the risk was hers to take. There will be plenty of publicity beforehand anyway and if the Government is willing to say that the vaccine is safe, who are we to say otherwise? Frankly, we dispense on a daily basis and don't have the faintest idea if what is in the tablets we are dispensing is what it says it is. We do so much on trust and I think this vaccination will have to be the same thing with the massive proviso that we take no legal responsibility if anything goes wrong. A watertight, legal document for the patient to sign absolving us of  all risk of prosecution would be a bare minimum before I would consider giving the vaccine. There we go, thats my five penn'orth

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