Community pharmacy representatives have called for the sector to be included in plans to administer the Oxford-AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine, which is being rolled out from today (Monday January 4).
The Oxford vaccine, which was approved by the MHRA on Wednesday December 30, is easier to transport and store than the Pfizer jab, which has been used by the NHS since December 8 and which only a select number of pharmacy-led sites will deliver.
According to the Government, 100 million doses of the Oxford vaccine have been secured for the UK, crown dependencies and overseas territories, with “tens of millions” to be administered “over the coming weeks and months” once batches have been quality checked by the MHRA. In England, it is first being rolled in six hospitals this week with "hundreds of GP-led services" to commence later in the week.
Commenting last week on the MHRA approval, PSNC director of NHS services Alastair Buxton said: “The approval of a second vaccine, and one that has less complex handling characteristics when compared to the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, is a positive step.”
Mr Buxton said pharmacies’ skills should be used to “administer the tens of millions of vaccinations that will be needed to help England escape from the grip of the pandemic”.
This was echoed by Company Chemists’ Association chief Malcolm Harrison, who said pharmacy was a “secret weapon” that had been overlooked by the NHS during the pandemic.
Mr Harrison said: “Community pharmacy teams have a track record of safely administering vaccine programmes at pace and at scale.
“Given that the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine requires similar storage to several other vaccines already provided to several other vaccines already provided by community pharmacies, our teams are well placed to administer it.
“We estimate that community pharmacies could administer up to half a million Covid vaccines a week.”
Meanwhile, National Pharmacy Association chair Andrew Lane pointed out that pharmacies “may be especially important in achieving uptake in poorer communities, because of the relatively high access to pharmacies in deprived neighbourhoods”.
“What’s more, people have a high level of trust in their local pharmacists, which could be an important factor in overcoming doubts and misapprehensions about vaccines for Covid-19.”