Speaking at the Downing Street coronavirus briefing yesterday (January 11), Mr Hancock said that community pharmacies are “probably the most embedded” providers in their communities and “important partners” in the vaccination campaign, with 200 pharmacy-led sites “coming on stream very shortly”.
Pharmacies will play a bigger role in the government’s vaccination campaign when the need comes to “persuade people…who are less certain that they want the vaccine to get the vaccine” and simplify access to it for those who “find it difficult to travel”, Mr Hancock said.
Expanding the number of vaccination sites
The government said that by Friday, 96% of the population in England will be within a 10-mile distance from a vaccination centre, with more sites to be added in the future.
“This expansion will include community pharmacy and roving vaccination centres on top of the hospitals, GP practices and the seven mass vaccination centres that we have opened,” Mr Hancock added.
Mr Hancock did not rule out introducing a 24/7 vaccination system “if it’s needed… to get this vaccine rolled out as fast as possible”.
However, NHS England and NHS Improvement national medical director Professor Stephen Powis claimed that the “majority of people would prefer to get their vaccines during the day”, which is why the government’s strategy is to “open as many centres in as many different settings as we can. That includes hospital hubs, it includes GP centres, large vaccination centres […] and it will include shortly community pharmacies”.
Get pharmacies involved
Speaking during a debate in parliament on COVID-19 vaccinations yesterday, vaccines deployment minister Nadhim Zahawi said that while around 200 pharmacies are involved in the first phase of the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccines, the number of pharmacies that will join the programme will be ramped up “as we get to the next stage, where we have vaccines in limitless volumes”.
In an update on its website last week (January 10), the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee said it was working with other pharmacy bodies and the Department of Health and Social Care to understand how more pharmacies can be involved in the COVID-19 vaccination programme.
Sign C+D’s petition urging NHSE&I to let more pharmacy teams across England pitch in with national COVID-19 vaccination efforts here