It is incredible to reflect that a year ago there had not been a single confirmed case of Covid-19 in the UK. Yet today we are looking at a situation where the virus will probably remain endemic for many years. This is why we are now seeing the biggest vaccination drive in the history of the NHS.
However, as Professor Sir Roy Anderson of Imperial College explained in his brilliant Royal Pharmaceutical Society/UCL School of Pharmacy new year lecture, creating herd immunity through vaccination will be difficult when coverage levels as high as 90 per cent may be required. Neither do we yet know the duration of protection that the vaccines confer. It is likely that in the future mass vaccination for Covid will become a normal and regular part of life. Enter community pharmacy.
The Government has chosen to use mass vaccination hubs in order to work at scale, given sufficient supplies, concentrating first on the most vulnerable in society. That’s necessary and most community pharmacies simply aren’t set up to do this.
But why aren’t ministers and officials much further along in their planning to use the scale and convenience of the local pharmacy network to supplement its approach when the absolute priority is to get as many people vaccinated in the shortest possible time. Surely you use all the assets at your disposal?
Yes, the sector is already making a fantastic contribution as the first community pharmacy-led vaccination services went live earlier this month. However, when millions of people face a round trip of over 10 miles to get their jab, surely a huge opportunity is being missed.
Everything’s in place. Logistical networks. Expertise. Accessibility. Experience. Thousands of potential local vaccination sites. So come on Mr Hancock – we need actions, not lukewarm words. Community pharmacy stands ready.