As part of its vaccinations and immunisations review – the interim findings of which were published last week (October 25) – the commissioner is considering “whether there are vaccines which could be safely and efficiently delivered by providers” other than general practices, including measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccinations.
NHS England told C+D that “building upon the contribution of community pharmacy to seasonal influenza coverage”, community pharmacists are among those alternative providers who could offer more vaccines as part of their work alongside primary care networks (PCNs) – groups of local GP practices covering an average of 50,000 people.
PCNs could receive “incentives” when “optimal vaccination coverage” is achieved at community level, NHS England added in the interim review.
The commissioning body told C+D that discussions on how these vaccination services could be commissioned and remunerated are still ongoing.
Addressing decline in childhood vaccinations
A final version of the review – which was first mentioned in the NHS long-term plan and was commissioned with the purpose of addressing a decline in childhood immunisations – will be released later this year, it added.
“Whilst coverage for most vaccines, especially primary courses of childhood immunisations, is high, there has been a small but steady decline in the last few years, meaning that we do not have a high enough coverage to prevent onward transmission of infections, particularly measles,” NHS England said.
The UK lost its “measles-free” status with the World Health Organisation earlier this year, three years after the virus was eliminated in the country. MMR vaccination rates are at 91.2%, below the recommended 95%, it explained.
The review will also consider whether to extend the list of chargeable travel vaccines available from different healthcare providers, NHS England added.
NHS medical director Professor Stephen Powis said: “Looking at ways to expand access to appointments will make it even easier for parents to protect their children and with the NHS playing its part, it is vital that everyone takes up this life-saving opportunity.”
Responding to the Prime Minister’s call for “urgent action” on measles in August, Royal Pharmaceutical Society English board chair Claire Anderson told C+D it is a “no brainer” to commission community pharmacies to provide MMR vaccinations.