Speaking at a Sigma Pharmaceuticals webinar last night (February 10), Mr Zahawi said that he is “delighted” that almost 200 pharmacy-led sites will be helping the government reach its “goal to vaccinate those in cohorts 1-4” by February 15.
“We are well underway to reaching that target and I’m grateful to all of you who contributed to that. I think we’ve done over 350,000 jabs in community pharmacy,” Mr Zahawi said.
He specifically praised the efforts of those community pharmacists who resorted to different models to vaccinate their local population. Among these, he mentioned the 22 community pharmacists in South Tyneside that are vaccinating thousands of housebound patients during the weekend.
C+D has approached the Department of Health and Social Care for confirmation of the figure shared by Mr Zahawi.
Future role of community pharmacy
“Most pharmacies” located in areas where there are “capacity gaps in service provision” can expect to be involved with the COVID-19 vaccination service when the government starts offering a dose of the vaccines to those in cohorts 5-9, Mr Zahawi said.
NHS England and NHS Improvement (NHSE&I) is working with pharmacy bodies, including the Pharmaceutical Service Negotiating Committee, on commissioning the COVID-19 vaccination service beyond the 1-9 cohorts, which the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation first advised in December last year should be prioritised for vaccination.
“The ambition is for the service to be commissioned from a significant number of pharmacies,” Mr Zahawi said.
“However, there are a number of issues that need to be addressed before this could really happen,” he said. These include “ensuring technical capacity and functionality, clinical waste and collection and disposal and access to additional products which are required to run the services, apart from just the vaccine itself,” Mr Zahawi added.
He also said community pharmacies are ideally placed to get to those communities who are “more hesitant about vaccines for a range of reasons”.
“We know that community pharmacies can reach into those hard to reach groups, so I really want to work with community pharmacies to keep driving take up to the COVID-19 vaccines”, he added.
He said that there are plans for all community pharmacies to “disseminate some of the information that we are providing in 13 different languages” – including Arabic, Farsi, and Hindu – and he will share “more about our uptake strategy in the coming few days”.
Branches of Boots and Superdrug, plus four independent pharmacies were the first six pharmacies in England that started administering COVID-19 vaccinations from January 14. Some 192 pharmacy-led sites are currently participating in the national vaccination programme.