Community Pharmacy should be an integral part of the government’s plan for a mass vaccination programme.
Why is it not?
It has become very clear that the only way the nation returns to some degree of normality is through an effective Covid vaccination programme. With this in mind, the key considerations for any such programme must be that of pace, scale and urgency.
It has become evident over recent days that the government’s own targets for vaccinations will not be met. The reasons for this current performance matter not, but it is important that the government now turns its attention to adopting a new approach and seeks support and assistance from those who can help.
Community pharmacy stands ready, willing and able.
The recent disclosure that one in four people in England live in an area without a vaccination centre is in stark contrast to the level of accessibility and localised provision of community pharmacy. Community pharmacies are situated in high street locations, in neighbourhood centres, and are often in some of the most deprived communities. Crucially, 89% of the population in England has access to a community pharmacy within a 20-minute walk.
There are approximately 14,000 pharmacies across the UK, all of which have a proven track record in supporting public health initiatives and in particular the very successful annual flu vaccine programme. Estimates suggest that community pharmacy could deliver close to 1.3M vaccines per week.
Pharmacists are skilled professionals with the right level of clinical training to undertake such a role, the network is well placed and has the required refrigerated supply chain in place to support. Pharmacists who currently deliver the flu vaccine each year have all undergone face to face training and will have met the necessary national standards and demonstrated appropriate competency. The annual flu vaccine programme has been successfully delivered for many years with community pharmacy playing a crucial role. In addition, the government’s own legislation in relation to the Covid vaccination programme enables pharmacists to administer the vaccine.
It is imperative that the government does not delay, ask community pharmacy for support now and you will get it.
You have a workforce which represents a fundamental part of the primary care network, a profession, that throughout the pandemic, has continued to provide care and advice to patients whilst ensuring the continued supply of valuable medication. When called upon, they will rise to the challenge once again. Making community pharmacy an integral part of this endeavour just makes good sense.
Nathan Wiltshire is Group Chief Executive at Cambrian Alliance Group. Cambrian Alliance Group represents the buying interests of over 1200 independent community pharmacies across the UK.