More than 230 cases of measles were recorded in the first quarter of 2019, the Department of Health and Social Care (DH) said yesterday (August 18), meaning the UK has lost its “measles-free” status with the World Health Organisation, three years after the virus was eliminated in the country.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson today laid out a number of measures to improve vaccination rates – including for measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) – such as: urging GPs to promote “catch up” MMR vaccination programmes for 10-11-year-olds and for those aged 5-25 who have not had two doses of the jab; updating NHS.uk to address misleading information about the dangers of vaccines; and asking NHS England to consider other settings outside of general practice for vaccinations.
The DH has also promised a “comprehensive strategy” to address the falling numbers of vaccinations, which is due to be published in the autumn.
“No-brainer” for pharmacy
Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) English pharmacy board chair Claire Anderson told C+D that it is a “no-brainer” to commission community pharmacy to provide MMR vaccinations.
Patients should have a broader choice of where to get their vaccinations and community pharmacies are one of the most accessible points of healthcare, she said.
“Parents of young children are high users of community pharmacies,” she added, “so pharmacy is an ideal place to push key messages and push for vaccinations.”
While getting a national pharmacy service up and running by the end of the year would be difficult, “if the NHS is really serious about improving [vaccination] uptake, anything is possible”, she stressed.
“Community pharmacies are very committed to improving care and safety and have responded to other urgent calls from the NHS,” Ms Anderson said, pointing to the “absolute, complete success story” of the national pharmacy flu vaccination programme in England.
However, pharmacies would have to have appropriate support, infrastructure and resources to help deliver this, she said.
Following yesterday’s announcement, the RPS will be raising this option with the DH, Ms Anderson said.
Pharmacy could vaccinate in coordination with PCNs
The Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) is contributing to the DH’s review of vaccination and immunisation “because we believe there is much potential for community pharmacies to help improve local uptake of vaccinations, working collaboratively with general practice as part of primary care networks”, director of NHS services Alastair Buxton told C+D.
“We have seen the potential for community pharmacies to support wider vaccination efforts through the national pharmacy flu vaccination scheme, and also through some local schemes where pharmacies have been commissioned to provide ‘catch up’ flu vaccination services for children who have missed out on national programmes delivered through schools,” he added.