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Opinion: Tensions rising on the Covid frontline

Community pharmacy has an important role in boosting vaccine uptake amid reports of abuse and intimidation.

By Pharmacy Magazine editor, Richard Thomas.

“Just remember darling, you won’t see your grandparents for another year because of this stupid woman.”  

This unpleasant remark was made recently to a community pharmacist clinical lead at a Covid vaccination clinic who had refused, correctly, to administer a second jab to a patient just four weeks after the first. Then there are various reports of anti-vaxxers harassing Covid clinic volunteers, daubing graffiti outside a pharmacy and trying to disrupt operations in several locations.

Upsetting and disturbing incidents like these are thankfully rare but by no means unusual. They serve as an unfortunate reminder of both the unacceptable abuse pharmacy teams have suffered during the pandemic and the tensions, exacerbated by Covid, that can exist between healthcare providers and an increasingly fractious public. Meanwhile, pharmacy’s incredible vaccination army continues to perform heroically and the vast majority of the public are incredibly grateful. The rest need to examine their consciences.

Looking at the overall picture, there are worrying signs. There has been a dramatic slowdown in vaccination numbers, meaning millions of people across the UK are not protected at a time when delta variant infections are still high (although declining), hospitals are stretched and most Covid restrictions have come to an end.

Vaccine hesitancy remains a big problem, especially among the young, ethnic minority groups and people living in deprived, urban areas. Trusted and embedded in their local communities, pharmacy can help tackle hesitancy and boost uptake, so the news that NHS England wants to recruit 1,000 pharmacies to deliver Covid booster jabs starting in September is welcome, although details are typically vague.

With that in mind, you may find the first of two special features in the July edition of Pharmacy Magazine on dealing with vaccine hesitancy helpful, with lots of advice, communication tips and answers to FAQs from pharmacists on the Covid frontline. 

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