In a letter to pharmacy-led and primary care network (PCN) sites on Wednesday (February 24), NHS England and NHS Improvement (NHSE&I) said there were “further opportunities to reach out to communities with lower uptake levels by operating temporary vaccination clinics in community venues”.
“In particular, a large number of places of worship have expressed an interest in supporting the COVID-19 vaccination programme,” it added. A list of venues that had already volunteered their space has been made available through the NHS Futures Platform.
“We are keen to support these venues – subject to them meeting essential safety criteria – to partner with existing PCN and pharmacy providers to host roving COVID-19 vaccination clinics,” the national commissioner said.
Synagogues offer space
Though C+D has not seen the full list of potential sites, it is understood that all 62 United Synagogue sites across the country have been offered to the NHS to become vaccination sites.
Currently, as part of the latest national lockdown, places of worship are permitted to remain open for individual prayer and life cycle events, although many have opted to close.
Dr Leyla Hannbeck, chief executive of the Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies (AIMp), said partnering with places of worship was “a pragmatic approach to the challenges of vaccination uptake across communities with lower uptake levels”.
“Our members have long established local relationships through their pharmacies and have proven that they are highly effective at shaping patients’ behaviours,” Dr Hannbeck commented.
Places of worship provide large spaces
Some pharmacies have already teamed up with places of worship to host the vaccination service.
Olutayo Arikawe, superintendent pharmacist at Priory Community Pharmacy, who is overseeing the COVID vaccination service from nearby St Francis Church, said the team had decided to use the “massive” church hall as it provided more space for a greater number of patients to be vaccinated at a time, while maintaining a social distance.
In a missive issued by the House of Bishops COVID-19 Recovery Group in December, the Church of England said churches, cathedrals and church halls may provide “suitable venues” for vaccination sites due to their size, stating that it was “a great act of service and witness” to do so.
A number of GP and clinical commissioning group sites have already been established in notable places of worship, including Cathedrals in Salisbury, Blackburn and Litchfield.
NHSE&I has again asked pharmacies that would like to operate COVID-19 vaccination sites to express their interest, including those who can administer 400 jabs a week. Contractors have until this Sunday (February 28) to apply.
C+D has asked NHSE&I whether these pharmacies interested in being involved, will have the opportunity to partner with places of worship as well.