Community pharmacy contractors should encourage “as many as possible to get the flu jab to protect vulnerable people against co-infection of flu and COVID-19 and to reduce vaccine wastage”, the national commissioner said in a primary care bulletin yesterday (January 19).
Pharmacy teams should “proactively” offer the flu jab to people entering the pharmacy if they have not already had the vaccination this season, NHE&I said. They should also check to see if people collecting prescriptions and those calling the pharmacy for advice have been vaccinated against the flu.
Contractors should also ensure their teams know why the flu vaccine is important and what it involves, and make sure they are “confident about booking appointments”.
Community pharmacies in England broke last year’s record for the number of jabs administered during the flu season within just two months of the start of the 2020/21 flu service. According to provisional data collated by the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee, pharmacies in England had administered more than 2.5 million doses of the flu vaccine as of yesterday (January 19).
NHSE&I also advised pharmacy teams that they should minimise vaccine wastage of both flu and COVID-19 jabs.
More than 200 pharmacy-led sites are expected to join the COVID-19 vaccination programme by the end of the month.
NHSE&I asked all primary care providers operating a local vaccination service to ensure COVID-19 vaccines are not wasted, encouraging them to have “reserve lists of recipients for every clinic” to be called in at short notice to take up any unused dose of vaccine.
“It will make sense to have these reserve lists drawn from the ‘next cohort’ on the list – at the moment either cohort three or cohort four,” NHSE&I said. This comes as the government announced earlier this week (January 18) that it was expanding the vaccination programme to those over 70 and people deemed clinically extremely vulnerable.
However, priority should be given to the first two cohorts identified as most at risk by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, NHSE&I added.
Where there is vaccine and capacity, pharmacy teams can also offer the COVID-19 vaccine “opportunistically” to people “within cohorts 1-4, such as vaccinating partners of a similar age from cohorts three and four who attend together, or those living in multigenerational households”, according to NHSE&I.
If there is a risk that the vaccine stock held by a local vaccination service will “become unviable if not used”, healthcare providers can offer it to people who fall outside the first four cohorts for the COVID-19 jab, it added.