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Welsh health boards accept pharmacy applications to offer COVID-19 vax

CPW: Pharmacies ready to support COVID-19 vaccination programme

Some local health boards (LHBs) in Wales are taking “expressions of interest” from community pharmacists wanting to take part in delivering the COVID-19 vaccine, C+D has learned.

Community Pharmacy Wales (CPW) told C+D earlier this week (December 7) that it is aware that some LHBs are accepting applications from pharmacists who would like to get involved in administering the approved COVID-19 vaccine.

The pharmacy network is “ready to do whatever is required to support the COVID-19 vaccination programme in Wales,” and will be able to “build on our success and energy in delivering the flu vaccination programme” a CPW spokesperson told C+D.

“We recognise that the programme will be complex and that there are major strategic challenges in both storing and administering the vaccine, but we are placing on the record our readiness to bring the network of community pharmacies across Wales into play as part of the solution to this major public health challenge. Some LHBs in Wales are already taking expressions of interest [from community pharmacists],” the spokesperson added.

Community pharmacies in Wales will continue “to meet the challenges of COVID-19 with the same focus, the same determination and the same can-do attitude” next year, the spokesperson said.

“Early discussions” with government

Adam Mackridge, strategic lead for community pharmacy at Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board, told C+D yesterday (December 8) that due to the “complex storage and transportation limitations of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine”, the health board currently has no plans to commission a COVID-19 vaccination service from its community pharmacies.

However, it has “asked for expressions of interest from community pharmacists, experienced in vaccination, who wish to support the mass vaccination centres by working as a vaccinator”, Mr Mackridge added.

“These expressions of interest are being centrally collated and pharmacists will be added to the bank for vaccinators, being offered shifts as needed to staff the centres,” he said.

However, as other COVID-19 vaccines become available, the health board “anticipates” that the delivery of these vaccines will be supported by primary care providers.

“There have been some early discussions nationally with the Welsh government around how we can work with independent contractors in primary care, including community pharmacies, as the COVID-19 vaccination programme develops,” Mr Mackridge added.

A spokesperson for Powys Teaching Health Board told C+D today (December 9) that it is "currently developing plans for the roll-out of the COVID-19 vaccination programme and expect to confirm further details soon".

C+D has also approached the other five health boards in Wales for comment.

Vaccine initially given in hospitals

The delivery of the COVID-19 vaccine in Wales will initially be from hospital sites “and then community settings”, minister for health and social services Vaughan Gething said last week (December 2).

Similarly, community pharmacies in England and Scotland will not be the NHS’s first choice for administering the Pfizer/BioNtech vaccine, which was approved for UK use last week (December 2).

However, 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.

NHS staff across the UK started administering the first doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine yesterday. In England, the delivery of the vaccine will first take place through NHS hospital hubs first before the programme is expanded to include GP-led sites and, “in due course”, pharmacies, health secretary Matt Hancock said last week (December 2).

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