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NHS indicates pharmacy role in potential late 2020 COVID vax service

Pharmacies will be able to offer a COVID vaccine as early as next month
Pharmacies will be able to offer a COVID vaccine as early as next month

Pharmacies will be part of the rollout of a national COVID-19 vaccination service before the end of 2020 should a vaccine become available, NHS boss Simon Stevens has indicated.

At an NHS England and Improvement (NHSE&I) press conference today (November 4), CEO Simon Stevens said that, although the "central expectation" is that the "bulk" of COVID-19 vaccines will become available next year, the government is planning for the "off chance" that some vaccines will be available by the end of 2020.

In that case, a "combination" of providers, including pharmacists, GP practices and vaccination centres, will deliver the vaccines. If a vaccine does become available before Christmas, Mr Stevens stressed he is "10/10" confident that providers will be able to "get going with at least some COVID vaccinations".

GPs ready for action

It comes after the GP magazine Pulse reported yesterday (November 1) that a new COVID-19 vaccine Directed Enhanced Service will be announced imminently for GP practices and PCNs to be potentially ready to administer a vaccine from December.

Speaking at the BBC Radio 4 Today Programme this morning, Mr Stevens said the NHS will write to GP practices this week “to get them geared up” to deliver a COVID vaccine “before Christmas if the vaccine becomes available”.

The NHS believes that “one or more” vaccines will become available in “the first part of next year”, Mr Stevens added.

“But in anticipation of that, we’re also gearing the NHS up to be ready to make a start on administering COVID-19 vaccines before Christmas if they become available and in fact, we have reached an agreement with the GPs to ensure they will be doing that,” he said.

PSNC working to clarify pharmacy's role

The Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) director of NHS Services Alastair Buxton told C+D today that PSNC is “working with NHSE&I and the DH to agree how pharmacy contractors can play a part in the COVID-19 vaccination programme”. 

“Community pharmacy teams have had a central role in the response to the pandemic so far, and this should continue as new treatments and vaccinations become available,” he added.

Pharmacists are among the healthcare professionals who will receive training to administer COVID-19 vaccines, licensed or unlicensed, as soon as they are approved by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency.

In July, health minister Matt Hancock said that pharmacists would have a "massive role to play" in delivering a COVID-19 vaccination once one becomes available.

Importance of flu vaccines

Speaking today at the BBC programme, Mr Stevens stressed the importance of flu vaccines, “given that we now know that having flu and coronavirus together doubles your chance of dying from coronavirus”.

“The good news is GPs are doing a brilliant job, along with chemists. We’ve got 2.5 million people more who’ve had their flu vaccine now compared to the same time last year,” he added.

C+D reported last week that more than 1.7 million flu vaccines have already been administered by community pharmacies so far. This means the sector broke last year’s record within just two months since the service was launched on September 1.

What do you make of Simon Steven's words?

A LOCUM, Community pharmacist

If you think the pharmacists will get 1p for endangering their lives giving out this dangerous vaccine you can think again , but as a certain Pharmaceutical Advisor who blasts my comments regularly says 'move over there's loads in the queue behind you' .Must be nice to have a job in an ivory tower

Locum Pharmacist , Locum pharmacist

So Matt Hancock wants pharmacy to deliver a vaccine which has barely any clinical testing associated with it, we know nothing about its long term potencial side effects, we have no idea what kind of effect if any it will have, the drug companies are holding no liability should someone suffer adverse effects, and we as pharmacists, 'experts in medicines' are expected  to blindly accept and jab away. Im sorry to say, but common sense and logic has gone out of the window. Any pharmacist who critically looks at this situation will know this is wrong on every level. 

Chris Locum, Locum pharmacist

I second your comments. There is no credible scientific argument provided for another lockdown as it is (merely scenarios and projections). There will be a significant health cost to the nation that is a consequence of government policy and not Covid-19.

We will look in the mirror eventually and see the Swedish response was the correct course of action.

It is an understandable gamble to prepare a vaccine in advance to avoid further time delays if it comes out as scientifically proven in the journals. It is not the plague - most people will cope with little after-effects. 

We did not know the first time around but now with have hard data to work with. We can debate the rising cases when all that matters is protecting the same vulnerable segment of the population, and the level of occupancy of ICU beds.

How would a pharmacist discuss an evidence-based treatment plan, and then in the same breath expect a patient to stick their arm out for a potentially unproven vaccine (if we even got hold of any supply)?

Kevin Western, Community pharmacist

So...if he can write to GP practices, why not Pharmacies, I don't doubt we will be involved...everyone who can hold a syringe will be roped in but it's the usual platitudes without substance until they get off their butts and agree to pay us a reasonable amount.
Of course that doesn't explain how we are going to find the capacity...

Soon-To-Be Ex-Pharmacist, Superintendent Pharmacist

I wouldn't worry too much about it Kevin - do you honestly think that the supply of the possibly-but-no-one-knows-for-sure-mythical Covid vaccine is going to work like clockwork, given the fiasco that is the flu vaccine every year? I would be surprised if we see anything in pharmacies before next summer.

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