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Majority of pharmacy staff have received COVID vax, say LPCs

Pharmacy staff have been encouraged to get vaccinated
Pharmacy staff have been encouraged to get vaccinated

Several local pharmaceutical committees (LPCs) have reported that the vast majority of their constituent pharmacy staff have received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Meanwhile, at the end January, Well Pharmacy announced that 40% of its frontline workforce had received the jab. Other multiples were encouraging their staff to get vaccinated.

NHS England and Improvement (NHSE&I) has urged all healthcare staff, including pharmacy workers, to receive the vaccine.

Official figures documenting how many pharmacy staff have received the first dose of the vaccine have not been shared by the government.

Vast majority have received their first dose in parts of southern England

Michael Lennox, chief executive of Somerset LPC, told C+D last week (February 1) that about 95% of the roughly 1,000 frontline pharmacy staff under his remit had now received their first dose. The LPC was currently in the process of a final “mop up” to get the last cohort inoculated, he said.

In Suffolk, as of the final week of January, it was estimated that 93% of pharmacies had either had their staff vaccinated or were in the process of booking appointments, according to the region’s LPC chief officer Tania Farrow. The rest were “being supported by the LPC to access vaccination sites as appropriate”, she said last week.

David Dean, chief executive of Thames Valley LPC, reported that all pharmacy staff in the area had been offered a vaccine. “We think we are now at 70% complete,” with “many more due” to take up their vaccination, he added.

Similarly, all pharmacy workers had been offered the jab in Tees, the LPC told C+D last week (February 2).

No “centralised” figures yet

For many LPCs, concrete vaccination figures were hard to come by. Raj Matharu, chair of Pharmacy London, told C+D that he had requested this information from local commissioners, but had been unable to obtain it.

In his capacity as chief executive for Lambeth, Southwark and Lewisham LPCs, he warned: “This is a great unknown for us and a concern for the welfare of our teams.” The LPC has advised contractors to contact designated vaccination sites directly to book vaccinations, he added.

However, Alison Williams, business support officer for Community Pharmacy Cheshire and Wirral, said that NHS England had begun collecting pharmacy team vaccination data locally from the final week of January.

Elsewhere in London, the majority of community pharmacy staff in Kensington, Chelsea and Westminster had received their first COVID-19 vaccination dose, according to the area’s LPC chief executive Rekha Shah. She praised the local clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) for providing easy access to vaccines throughout January.

In Kingston and Richmond, LPC chief executive Michael Keen explained that pharmacy staff had been vaccinated through local GPs and “vaccination days” at St George’s Hospital. A spreadsheet of pharmacy professionals in south-west London who had yet to be vaccinated had been organised, he said, so staff could be called for a vaccine.

However, Mr Keen believed that “supplies of vaccines to GPs has not been what was originally anticipated”, so “staff vaccinations may be taking longer to book”.

“Smooth uptake”

Gateshead and South Tyneside LPC has been running a “manual survey” to understand how many staff in the area had been vaccinated. Pharmacy staff were able to access the vaccine from early January, and the LPC had started a reserve list so staff could fill last-minute appointments.

Rebecca Myers, speaking on behalf of Gloucestershire LPC, added: “As demand has now dropped off dramatically, we are fairly confident most team members have been vaccinated or have an appointment booked.”

In Dudley, pharmacy staff were asked if they would like to receive the vaccine from early January, an offer that was then opened up to supporting staff a week later. LPC chief officer Stephen Noble said that though he had no figures for uptake, “it would appear to have gone very smoothly, with no-one saying that they found it difficult to book [their vaccine]”.

According to a Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee update last Friday (February 5): CCGs and other local commissioners “have been asking contractors about the proportion of their frontline staff who have been given a first dose of COVID-19 vaccine.

“This is part of efforts by NHS England and NHS Improvement (NHSE&I) to ensure that all those in the first four priority groups have been vaccinated by mid-February.”

In one bulletin, on January 28, NHSE&I said that staff without an NHS number should still be vaccinated, and “record [this] locally via a paper system and ensure that that the vaccination event is more formally documented later. NHSE&I is working to agree a longer-term solution, but employers should not wait for this before vaccinating.”

NHSE&I had not responded to a request for further comment before publication.

Multiples encourage staff to get jab

2,000 staff working for Well had received their first dose by the end of January, the multiple reported. Jacqeline Lunardi, people director at Well, told C+D: “Protecting our colleagues is a key priority and we will continue to follow our COVID-secure ways of working to keep our colleagues, patients and communities safe and well.”

A spokesperson for Rowlands parent company Phoenix UK, said it “had advised and continues to advise colleagues” to get vaccinated, as this would “help protect them, their families and their community”.

However, any decision to receive a vaccination is a personal one, they conceded. They added that as access to the vaccine was constantly changing, “it is not possible to provide a meaningful percentage at this time”.

A spokesperson for Superdrug said: “we encourage all our frontline teams to be vaccinated”.

Lloydspharmacy declined to comment. Boots was approached for comment.

Are you or your pharmacy involved in the COVID-19 vaccination programme? Let C+D know and share your experiences with fellow pharmacists and staff on the C+D Community. Register for free, or access the site via LinkedIn.

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