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Vaccines minister wants ‘steady state’ of 500 pharmacy COVID vax sites

Nadhim Zahawi speaking at the Cambridge Union last night
Nadhim Zahawi speaking at the Cambridge Union last night

The government hopes to have “a steady state” of 500 pharmacy-led COVID vaccination sites in England, the vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi has said.

Speaking to the Cambridge Union virtually last night (April 27), Mr Zahawi outlined the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccination programme in the UK, which includes the largest “deployment structure…in the history of the NHS”.

As well as hospital hubs and mass vaccination sites – such as those in the Emirates Stadium and the ExCeL Centre – “at a steady state we will have 500 pharmacies…vaccinating as well”, the minister said. As of April 23, there were 339 pharmacy-led vaccination sites across England.

Mr Zahawi also noted that the vaccine deployment structure they had built had the capacity to “deploy around one million doses a day”, and that a few weeks ago, a record 27 jabs a second were being administered.

However, there are no plans at present for vaccination sites to operate 24 hours a day, he said.

In a written answer to parliament on April 26, Mr Zahawi said that a “small pilot” of extended hours in pharmacy-led sites had led to a recommendation that “regional teams encourage pharmacy local vaccination sites to offer more flexible hours/appointment schedules outside of the 8am to 8pm period if a trial shows there is local demand”.

“Under current contractual terms, this would be opt-in for the contractor, but may be attractive due to potentially minimising impact on provision of other pharmaceutical services,” Mr Zahawi wrote.

NHS family has “Dunkirk spirit”

During his Union address, Mr Zahawi praised the work of the “NHS family” involved in the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine, including pharmacists, for embodying the “Dunkirk spirit”, likening it to “a thousand flotillas coming together saying ‘we can do this, we will do it together’”.

“If the virus was designed to challenge liberal democracies like ours, like our European neighbours, or the United States, or Israel or elsewhere, then the vaccine in many ways is designed to play to our strengths,” he said.

“I think in many ways the DNA of the peoples of these four nations, these isles, is one of organisation: we demonstrated it in 2012 with the Olympics.”

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PARESH shah, Community pharmacist

I feel that 500 is too low as there will be pharmacy sites who may wany to opt in and out depending on circumstances. We should have at least 1000 pharmacy sites so coverage is not reduced countrywide.. Also more pharmacy sites would mean patients do not have to travel out of their local area which means they can walk to have their vaccination and more healthy and less pollution on the roads. 


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