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PSNC pushes for pharmacy COVID-19 vaccination service parity with GPs

Pfizer/BioNTech said its COVID-19 vaccine is 90% effective against the infection
Pfizer/BioNTech said its COVID-19 vaccine is 90% effective against the infection

The Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) is pushing for a COVID-19 vaccination service in pharmacy “to have parity” with the one commissioned for GP practices.

The details for a community pharmacy COVID-19 vaccination service are still being discussed, with the PSNC, the Department of Health and Social Care (DH) and NHS England and Improvement (NHSE&I) having entered “urgent negotiations” about the sector’s role in  a vaccination programme, the negotiator announced last week (November 6).

Following news of positive interim results released by Pfizer/BioNTech regarding their COVID-19 vaccine, health secretary Matt Hancock said on the BBC Breakfast programme today (November 10), that the “NHS is ready” to deliver a potential COVID-19 vaccine. “The GPs are ready, we’re working with the pharmacists…who’ve got a very important role to play,” he said.

Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies (AIMp) CEO Leyla Hannbeck told C+D last week that AIMp is also in discussions with NHSE&I to “understand what the criteria are for community pharmacy to get involved”.

The Royal Pharmaceutical Society said today that it is meeting with the government this week to discuss “how pharmacists can be integrated into vaccine programmes in the future.”

“Only some pharmacies”

More details on the service for pharmacies will be shared “in due course” but roll-out of the programme is expected to take place at local level, PSNC said last week.

PSNC director of NHS services Alastair Buxton said that a “collaborative approach” – similar to the one taken to deliver flu vaccinations – will need to be implemented.

“Due to the practical requirements for service provision at scale, not all pharmacies will be able to offer COVID vaccinations; this will be an opportunity that only some pharmacies and GP practices will choose to take up, with local coordination of sites,” he added.

A PSNC spokesperson said the “practical requirements for service provision at scale” include storage requirements – the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine needs to be stored at -70C until the day it is used – and the way vaccines will be supplied to the NHS.

More details on the COVID-19 vaccination programme for GP practices were released by NHSE&I and the British Medical Association (BMA) yesterday.

According to the BMA guidance, “local pharmacies may be commissioned where general practice coverage is not enough”, while the NHS said GP practices will have to provide the majority of the staff to administer the vaccines, but local providers such as community pharmacy “may be able to support delivery”.

GP practices will receive “the vaccines, needles, syringes, diluents and personal protective equipment” to administer a COVID-19 vaccine. They will receive a fee of £12.58 per dose administered, and a total of £25.16 once the second dose is delivered, the BMA said.

NHS England and Improvement (NHSE&I) CEO Simon Stevens said last week (November 4) that a "combination" of providers, including pharmacists, GP practices and vaccination centres, will deliver a COVID-19 vaccine when one is available, and the NHS is planning for the "off chance" that some vaccines will be available by the end of 2020.

Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine interim results

Pfizer/BioNTech announced yesterday (November 9) that an interim efficacy analysis of their mRNA-based COVID-19 vaccine, which consists of a two-dose schedule, showed that it is 90% effective in preventing the virus in participants who had not previously contracted it.

A DH spokesperson told C+D yesterday that the government secured 40 million doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine but added that “we will know whether the vaccine meets our robust standards of safety and effectiveness once their safety data has been published, and only then can the medicines regulator consider whether it can be made available to the public”.

What assurances do you need before a COVID-19 vaccination service is commissioned from pharmacy?

MR Dissillutioned, Pharmacy owner/ Proprietor

The GPs I know do not want to be involved with this. Storage, administration(multidose vial), waiting 15 minutes post vaccination, patients in the waiting room, two doses 3 weeks apart. Together with a lower rate of renumeration than the flu vaccinatiion. Personally I feel this mass vaccintion should be handed to the army and carried out in sports halls etc.

Dara Hughes, Community pharmacist

While I may well be criticised for being overly naive I welcome the role of administering the vaccine to patient groups. I have zero doubt that on approval this vaccine will be safe. I expect that with good time management I can provide the service in my working time without compromising other core tasks. I am however rather apprehensive about the logistics required in transport and efficient of a vaccine to be stored at minus 80. However the Pfizer vaccine is a novel rna vaccine and is likely inherently unstable at normal refrigeration temperatures. I look forward to the approval of more traditional vaccine preparations which I’d expect to have normal storage requirements. 

Kevin Western, Community pharmacist

I agree dara. the biggest issue, as far as i can see will be getting The GPs to relinquish some for Pharmacy to use, and prising the money off them.

The side effects/effectiveness arguments arent really relevant as long as its licenced. Most of the meds you dispense every day are capable of causing harm or death, and no one thinks about it that hard.. and any risk compared to the death/significant harm figures for Covid is a no brainer.

Benie Locum, Locum pharmacist

I wonder if the actual pharmacists doing the heavy lifting would see any portion of the funds if made available ??

Adam Hall, Community pharmacist

Setting aside safety & political concerns already mentioned here, what can we stop doing in order to provide covid vaccination services? After all, the GPs have already asked what they can stop doing.

PoPeYe- Popeys Car Wash, Community pharmacist

Indeed. Although it appears that a fair number of our professional colleagues in general practice stopped doing "some things" a good few months ago anyway.

Locum Pharmacist , Locum pharmacist

Since when have vaccinations been required to be stored at -70 degrees??!!. We are about to see a nationwide roll out of vaccine with nothing really known about it and trusting in a government who have made so many failings throughout this pandemic. I'm assuming the nightingale hospitals will be used as vaccination centres, this would be a very convenient use of them, coincidence?!

All of this compromises patient safety and I just hope we don't see the repercussions in years to come

A.S. Singh, Community pharmacist

this is a dangerous half baked idea by the goverment to think the vaccine is safe. Clinical trials come in phases for a reason, years of drug testing have proved this. MHRA are quite meticulous - let's hope that no harm comes to anyone from it.

Expect high levels of litigation when side effects start to appear 

O J, Community pharmacist

As a health professional, it is our duty to remain impartial and rely on the evidence that is produced before us. I am sure MHRA, an independent government body, are capable of doing their job.
I hope this vaccine works well.

Benie Locum, Locum pharmacist

Independent in the same way the GPhC are independent and not in the pockets of......

Chris Locum, Locum pharmacist

If the deaths associated with Vioxx were anything to go by, I would conclude impartially and independently that the MHRA is not fit for purpose.

Dave Downham, Manager

Great news....for GPs.

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