Three in five pharmacists are keen to participate in the MMR catch-up campaign in an effort to stem the rising number of measles cases across the UK, a C+D survey has revealed.
Sixty-one per cent of pharmacists who responded to the two-week poll said they would be eager to play a part in the measles vaccination programmes in Wales and England. However, 39 per cent of the 318 respondents said they did not have the time or capacity to provide the jab.
The results came as the Northern Ireland Executive announced last week (May 28) that it was launching a national MMR catch-up programme to target children aged five to 15 years who were unvaccinated or only partially vaccinated. Children would be offered the vaccination by their GPs until September, it said.
Sixty-one per cent of pharmacists who responded to a C+D poll said they would be eager to play a part in the measles vaccination programmes in Wales and England
More on measles
There have been 31 cases of measles in the country so far this year, according to Health and Social Care Northern Ireland.
Public Health Wales (PHW) and Public Health England (PHE) launched catch-up campaigns in April following a measles outbreak. At the time, PHE told C+D that pharmacists would need to target their local commissioners if they wanted to get involved.
PHW consultant in pharmaceutical public health Karen Fitzgerald said the group was planning to harness community pharmacists' role to encourage patients to receive the vaccination.
Pharmacist Tim Gibbs, who has provided the influenza vaccine since 2010 as part of a flu programme on the Isle of Wight, told C+D this week that it would benefit both patients and the profession if pharmacists got involved in the catch-up campaign. "They are taking so much [money] off us in the dispensing side. We need to do other services. We need to show we have the skills, ability and capability," he told C+D.
Training would take up a day at the most, Mr Gibbs said. "It's a new skill and pushes pharmacy forward."
NPA director of pharmacy Deborah Evans said pharmacists had proved the contribution they make in improving vaccination uptake through the provision of the flu vaccine.
"A broader vaccination role for pharmacists with the appropriate investment could be of benefit for patients and commissioners," she said. Further training would be needed for pharmacists vaccinating children under 12 and particularly the under twos, she added.
Wales has been the worst hit by the measles epidemic, with 1,362 cases since the outbreak began in November. Nearly 2,500 vaccines were given in GP surgeries across the country in the past week, according to figures from PHW.
In England, PHE, NHS England and the Department of Health have been targeting children aged between 10 and 16 years through GPs and schools and are due to announce the latest uptake on Friday.
How else could pharmacists help combat the measles epidemic?