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COVID vax role for NI pharmacists on cards after flu service expansion

CPNI chief Gerard Greene: Pharmacy teams "ready" to take part in vaccination efforts
CPNI chief Gerard Greene: Pharmacy teams "ready" to take part in vaccination efforts

Pharmacists in Northern Ireland will be included in future plans for the COVID-19 vaccination service, following the successful expansion of the flu service to 50-64-year-olds.

Community pharmacists in Northern Ireland have been giving the flu vaccine to adults aged 50-64 for the first time since January 11, as part of an expanded vaccination programme across the country.

More than 350 pharmacies are offering the jab as part of a joint venture with GPs until March 31, following the successful vaccination of 14,000 health and social care workers in 2020.

Health minister Robin Swann said earlier this month that he was “very pleased” to see the flu vaccine service extended, adding: “Community pharmacies will also be included in future plans for the COVID-19 vaccination programme, supporting the public health response to the pandemic.”

A spokesperson for Community Pharmacy Northern Ireland (CPNI) told C+D on Wednesday (January 27) that though there is no official role as yet for community pharmacy in the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine, they expect the sector to be involved in due course.

Community pharmacies will only offer the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine when supplies allow, according to the Department of Health’s phased vaccination programme plan.

CPNI chief executive Gerard Greene said: “Community pharmacies will be part of the COVID-19 vaccine programme in due course and work is underway with the Department of Health in Northern Ireland to involve community pharmacy teams in that programme as soon as it is feasible to do so.

“Community pharmacists and their teams stand ready and able to play their part,” he added.

Transferrable skills

The expansion of the flu service “highlights the clinical skills and agility of [community pharmacy] to inoculate and protect our communities”, Mr Greene said.

These transferable skills can be used in the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccination programme, he added.

Northern Ireland’s chief pharmaceutical officer Cathy Harrison described community pharmacies as now being “a valued part of the team effort to vaccinate people against seasonal flu and the SARS-CoV-2 virus”.

Northern Ireland was the last UK country to announce an expansion of its flu vaccination programme in light of COVID-19, preceded by EnglandWales, and Scotland.

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