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Pharmacy ‘willing and able’, but no sign of national COVID vax service

NHSE&I said it is considering how it can involve more pharmacies in the coming days and weeks
NHSE&I said it is considering how it can involve more pharmacies in the coming days and weeks

The sector is “ready, willing and able” to help deliver COVID-19 vaccinations to patients across the country, but pharmacists are concerned by their overall lack of involvement.

Up to two million people a week will need to receive the COVID-19 vaccine to avoid a third wave of the coronavirus outbreak, a study by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) concluded last month (December 23).

However, pharmacists are concerned that without a nationally-commissioned community pharmacy COVID-19 vaccination service, this target is far from reachable.

Although a “limited number” of pharmacies have been approved as suitable vaccination sites, the majority of England’s community pharmacy network are not able to provide the service – or receive a fee of £25.16 for each patient to whom they have administered both vaccination doses – because they do not meet the requirements.

“I and my community pharmacy colleagues stand ready willing and able to provide a COVID-19 vaccination service,” Graham Phillips director of the Manor Pharmacy group tweeted. “Imagine what we could achieve working in concert with our GP colleagues.”

Ash Soni, owner of Copes Pharmacy in Streatham, London, agreed, adding that now the Oxford/Astrazeneca vaccine has been approved, the sector is on “tenterhooks” to see when it will be asked to help with the vaccination efforts.

“We’re in a position today where people are genuinely frightened by where we are and what’s going to happen next,” he told C+D yesterday (January 4). “So why would you not look for ways to get this through more quickly, more efficiently, delivering the maximum volume [of vaccines] in the shortest possible time?”

Ian Strachan, owner of Strachan's Chemist, Oldham, tweeted that the sector should be “immediately mobilised” to help meet the vaccination targets, while Royal Pharmaceutical Society English pharmacy board chair professor Claire Anderson tweeted: “Community pharmacists are trained, ready and waiting to give vaccines.”

“Biggest vaccination programme in history”

Responding to pharmacists’ comments, an NHS spokesperson said: “Pharmacies are already working with GPs to deliver the vaccine in many areas of the country and as more supply becomes available, many more pharmacists will play a role in delivering the NHS’s phased vaccination programme, the biggest in the health service’s history.”

The first pharmacies approved to deliver the local enhanced service (LES) COVID-19 vaccination programme will begin administering vaccines from January 11, NHS England and NHS Improvement (NHSE&I) confirmed in a letter dated December 28.

However, the number and location of the approved sites are still being finalised, NHSE&I told C+D.

It is prioritising those with high thoroughfare, but said it is considering how more pharmacies can be involved in the coming days and weeks.

Ian Dean, CEO of Community Pharmacy North Yorkshire local pharmaceutical committee (LPC), said a number of pharmacies in his LPC had applied to deliver the LES, but have not yet had the go-ahead from NHSE&I to administer the vaccinations from next week.

“I think it is quite right we have primary care network (PCN) mass vaccination sites, but I don’t think they alone will deliver two million vaccines a week. This needs to be augmented with pharmacies and GP practices – we need every sinew being pulled to get to the two million a week target,” he told C+D.

Barriers to involvement

Mr Soni said the set of requirements pharmacies had to meet to deliver the LES – especially the stipulation to administer 1,000 vaccinations a week – would have deterred many pharmacies from getting involved in the national efforts.

“Logistically it doesn’t work: That’s 12 vaccines an hour, 12 hours a day, 7 days a week,” Mr Soni calculated. He suggested a more realistic target of every pharmacy and every GP surgery in England administering 100 vaccinations a week.

“Pharmacy has demonstrated [with the national flu service] that it can deliver vaccination schemes at speed and en mass.”

Mr Dean agreed, adding: “If the vaccine service is going to be slow, it has to be because there’s not enough vaccines, not because we can’t deliver.”

Are you involved in local efforts to administer COVID-19 vaccinations?

Axed Locum, Locum pharmacist

The criteria for delivering the "Covid" vaccine is clear - Quite rightlyNHS England want a "Full" dedicated team to deal with this programme of Covid Vaccination. It is clear that majority of the community pharmacy sector would fail this key requirement owing to other contractual obligations. In all probability the greedy conntractors will not recruit a dedicated team to manage the vaccination programme, but utilise exisiting teams resuting in a backlog and chaos in the delivery of the core services.!! AVOID

Chris Locum, Locum pharmacist

Exactly the point of the whole exercise. A half-***ed approach is not good enough. Pharmacy staff have been under relentless pressure and even abuse in some cases. There is no reason for the extra demand - other than profit (rather than the greater good). Once again, Pharmacy is eager to demonstrate its 'worth', but our efforts will be forgotten by many after it is in the rear-view mirror.

Benie Locum, Locum pharmacist

Therein lies the problem. So ask yourself why pharmacists will be clamouring to get involved?

Axed Locum, Locum pharmacist

The enormity, magnitude and speed of delivery of 1000 jabs per week is underestimated, and would substantially exceed the target of 40 per day for influenza vaccines that were targeted by the contractors along with normal workload.... As usual chasing the money rather than the reality!!..


TC PA, Community pharmacist

Axed locum, the 1000 jabs only really applies to the pfizer vaccine because of the way they are packaged and limited shelf life out of deep freeze.

There is no reason pharmacies cannot provide the oxford/az vaccine at a rate comparable to the flu vaccine.

I dare say you are right that some will see this as a money grabbing opportunity, I'm lucky enough that my bosses are more flexible than most so I'd have no issue providing the oxford/az jab. There should be a new application process for providing this vaccine as the logistics are completely different to the pfizer one.

Axed Locum, Locum pharmacist

One of the criteria in the service specification is 1000 jabs per week, however this could be changed to suit the needs.There are other logistical issues that will need to be overcome, and for that the majoritiy of the community pharmacy setting fails. 

Dealing with the pent-up demand for the vaccine in order of priority, the DOH has implemented..Most vunerable first, age groups etc..This cannot be dealt with in an ad hoc basis as we do with the influenza vaccine, which is essentially a "walk in" service.How will the community sector deal with this, along with the long queues and social distancing, and dealing with the delivery of the core services.

Perhaps, when the demand eases, to some 20 jabs per day, there may be a role for the community pharmacy setting.


TC PA, Community pharmacist

Your are correct, an ad hoc walk in system would not work but this can be easily dealt with by a robust booking system. I've done it with flu vacinnations this year and have done over 300 without doing more than 12 on any one single day.

I would say though, with stocks of the covid vaccines limited. I can't see a role for the majority of community pharmacies until there are larger supplies available. And there is no way a pharmacist should be pressured into providing this service if they haven't got the time or appropriate premisis. If they are pressured I would contact the PDA/NPA or even the C+D and expose the owner.

John Ellis, Community pharmacist

All good things come to those who wait, when faced with the prospect of delivering these vaccinations, the government will have no choice but to turn to pharmacies to help. Though I do accept that government incompetence will inevitably delay the process.

Kevin Western, Community pharmacist

it appears the barrier is that the nhs cant see the difference in the two vaccines and how they can be deployed... though why they would stick to the stupidly rigid system for the Pfizer vaccine when there is the much more flexible a/z one available i have no idea... why not do the mass vaccinations at the sites they have using Pfizer and let the rest of us (assuming we want out of this mess....) use the a/z vaccine in more accessible places..

Kevin Western, Community pharmacist

saw the Vaccination "czar" on sky this morning saying Community Pharmacy WAS involved then proceeded to prove he knew absolutely nothing about the sector... pillock

N O, Pharmaceutical Adviser

"That’s 12 vaccines a day"

Editor -- I think it is 12 vaccines an hour.

Grace Lewis, Editorial

Thanks for the eager eye. This has been amended.

Grace Lewis, C+D

Benie Locum, Locum pharmacist

'Willing and able' 

Who did they ask ?

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