Community pharmacy vaccination service begins


Northern Irish Health Minister Robin Swann has today launched a new community pharmacy Covid-19 vaccination service. The new service will see almost 350 community pharmacies throughout Northern Ireland begin to administer the vaccine and will mean eligible members of the public will be able to avail of the vaccine at a location more local to them.


At present this applies to those aged 50 years and over. This latest development follows the official opening of the Covid-19 vaccination centre at the SSE arena in Belfast earlier today.


Speaking during a visit to Timoney Pharmacy in Lambeg, Health Minister Robin Swann said:


“This is a significant day in our vaccination journey and I am delighted to formally launch this new Covid-19 vaccination service in community pharmacies across Northern Ireland.”


“Community pharmacy teams have remained dedicated to providing the public with vital health care and support through what have been very challenging times. Pharmacists have a wealth of expertise, skills and experience which makes them very well-placed for delivering the Covid-19 vaccine. The addition of this new service will help speed up the roll-out of the existing programme by increasing capacity and local accessibility to vaccines for the general population, particularly for those who may find it more difficult to travel to one of the mass vaccination centres.”


After receiving her vaccine at the pharmacy, Chief Pharmaceutical Officer Cathy Harrison said:


“Community pharmacies have played a vital role throughout the pandemic and will continue to do so as they join the vaccination roll-out programme. Over the course of the past year, the general public has come to rely on community pharmacists more than ever before due to their accessibility and the addition of this new service will greatly benefit the people of Northern Ireland.


“Given the high demand for vaccines we anticipate that community pharmacies will be a popular option for those who are eligible so please be patient with pharmacy teams.”


Joe Brogan, Head of Pharmacy and Medicines Management at the Health and Social Care Board said:


“The COVID vaccination campaign is one of the ways that we as a society will move forward. It is vital that our population has every opportunity to access this service and it’s fantastic to have almost 350 additional locations where people can book an appointment for a vaccine at a time and a place that suits them.


“I wish to recognise the tremendous response of community pharmacy teams in supporting the response to COVID and support our pathway out of the pandemic.”


Gerard Greene, Chief Executive of Community Pharmacy NI said:


“I am delighted to see the rollout of the community pharmacy vaccination programme. This will bring a further boost to the regional and national vaccination programme and ensure that even more people in our communities are protected from the virus.


“The advantage in being able to receive the vaccine at participating local community pharmacies is their accessibility so people can get the vaccine at a location more convenient to them.


“We do ask the public for patience over the coming weeks as this new service gets up and running. Pharmacists will be vaccinating the public along with their usual work in ensuring the safe supply of medicines and provision of medical advice.


“As clinically trained vaccinators, community pharmacists are looking forward to beginning vaccinating their communities and contribute even further to the wider Covid-19 response.”


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NI pharmacies join vaccination programme


Community pharmacies across Northern Ireland will join the Covid-19 vaccination programme from the end of this month, Health Minister Robin Swann has announced.


The plan will see hundreds of community pharmacies provide vaccine jabs to members of the public, complementing the work of GP practices and vaccination centres. Over 300 pharmacies have signed up to be part of the scheme to date.


The official launch of the roll-out to community pharmacies will be on March 30th, although it is expected that many will have started before then.


The Health Minister said:


“I am delighted to confirm yet another positive development in our drive to protect the people of Northern Ireland from Covid-19.


“Community pharmacists are an integral part of the health and social care family. Their contribution to getting as many people vaccinated as possible will be invaluable.”


Northern Ireland’s Chief Pharmaceutical Officer Cathy Harrison said:


“Community pharmacies are the most accessible healthcare service for the public and their involvement in the Covid-19 vaccination programme will build on the success of their role in Northern Ireland’s 2020/21 winter flu vaccination.


“I want to thank all the pharmacy staff involved and representatives of the community pharmacy sector for their support in bringing this plan to fruition.”


Joe Brogan, Head of Pharmacy and Medicines Management at the Health and Social Care Board, said:


“The Covid vaccination campaign is one of the ways that we as a society will move forward. It is vital that our population has every opportunity to access this service and it’s fantastic to have over 300 further points where people can book an appointment for a vaccine at a time and a place that suits them. I wish to recognise the tremendous response of community pharmacy teams in supporting the response to Covid and our pathway out of the pandemic.”


The Chief Executive of Community Pharmacy NI, Gerard Greene, said:


“This is a fantastic and welcome step forward. The accessibility and reach of the community pharmacy network, with pharmacists as skilled vaccinators, means they are well equipped to take part in the vaccine programme and further contribute to the pandemic response.


“Throughout the pandemic, the community pharmacy workforce has gone above and beyond to support patients across Northern Ireland. This latest example shows our pharmacists collaborating to ensure a smooth and safe vaccine programme to protect the public. This should be commended.


“We would also remind the public that community pharmacies remain open with support and guidance for any medical concern. The vaccination programme will not impact on other services and prescriptions will be dispensed in a safe, convenient and timely manner. Public health continues to be our top priority and the community pharmacy network remains committed to serving their communities. The Covid-19 vaccine is another example of community pharmacy playing that central role in primary healthcare.”



New data shows Covid-19 vaccines meet strict regulatory safety standards


Data published from UK’s independent medicines regulator confirms approved vaccines meet strict regulatory standards for safety.


Routine safety monitoring and analysis of the approved COVID-19 vaccines by the UK’s medicines regulator, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), shows that the safety of these vaccines remains as high as expected from the clinical trial data that supported the approvals. The safety profile of the vaccines remains positive and the benefits continue to far outweigh any known side-effects.


Over 10 million doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech and the Oxford University/AstraZeneca vaccines have been given across the UK and the MHRA has gathered a large amount of safety data. Data published today shows 22,820 reports of suspected side effects or an overall reporting rate of 3 in 1,000 doses of vaccine administered from 9 December 2020 to 24 January 2021. This reassuring data has shown that the vast majority of reported side effects are mild and all are in line with most types of vaccine, including the seasonal flu vaccine. These include sore arms and mild ‘flu-like’ symptoms, which reflect normal immune response to vaccines and are short-lasting.


The MHRA has today published its safety surveillance strategy for monitoring the safety of all UK-approved COVID-19 vaccines. This has been informed by the Government’s independent advisory body, the Commission on Human Medicines, and expertise across the UK public health sector.


The MHRA has also published today the first of what will be regular COVID-19 vaccine safety reports. These provide details on the suspected side-effects to the vaccines reported through its safety monitoring system, the Yellow Card scheme. This data has been thoroughly analysed by the MHRA’s scientists and safety experts together with all other sources of evidence.


The MHRA is working to actively promote reporting on COVID-19 vaccines from patients and healthcare professionals to the Coronavirus Yellow Card scheme. Anyone who has received the vaccine and thinks they may have suffered a side-effect, even suspected, is encouraged to report it to the MHRA here.


Safety monitoring of all medicines and vaccines used by the wider UK population is a key role of the MHRA. The safety of COVID-19 vaccines is continually monitored throughout their use in healthcare practice to ensure they remain safe and effective. The regulator does this by identifying and comparing new and emerging data from multiple sources with what it already knows from large-scale clinical trials.

Dr June Raine, MHRA Chief Executive, said:


“Vaccines are the most effective way to protect against COVID-19 and save lives and prevent serious complications from this terrible virus. The data we have collected provides further reassurance that the COVID-19 vaccines are safe and continue to meet the rigorous regulatory standards required for all vaccines. We remain confident that the benefits of these vaccines outweigh any risks.


“Our priority is to ensure the public has safe and effective vaccines and we will continue to analyse, monitor and review all the safety data for these vaccines. I’d like to thank everyone who has reported a potential side effect on us – every report matters.”


This article is being shared under the Open Government Copyright licence.



Scottish Government aim to use blue envelopes for vaccine invites


Invitations to a Covid-19 vaccine appointment for people aged 70-79 will start to land on doormats in several health board areas from Monday 25th January across Scotland.


The first tranche of invitations will use NHS branded white envelopes but distinctive coloured blue envelopes are planned to be used as soon as possible as the programme progresses through the different groups on the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) priority list. The letters will include information on how to reschedule an appointment if it is not suitable.


Scottish Government have said that they are on track for all those aged over 80 to have received their first dose of the vaccine by the end of the first week in February. No-one aged 80 or over should expect a vaccine invitation because they will be contacted directly by phone or letter.


Health Secretary Jeane Freeman said:


“We all know how easy it is to ignore some of the mail which comes through our letterboxes but these blue envelopes, when they start being used, will be very distinctive.


“All letters are being posted First Class and we have been advised by the Royal Mail that the distinctive envelopes will allow them to prioritise delivery.


“The letters will contain information about the time and place of your appointment and details on how to reschedule it if you are unable to attend.


“I would urge everyone to take up their appointment when they are offered one.


“The vaccination programme is one of three key ways we are working to beat this virus, along with our expanded testing programme to identify cases and break chains of transmission and the important lockdown restrictions everyone in Scotland must follow. All these measures work to greatest effect when they work together.”


This circular is being shared under the Open Government Copyright licence.



£5million invested in community pharmacy delivery service


The Scottish Government and Community Pharmacy Scotland (CPS) have finalised discussions to establish a time-limited, funded medicines delivery service to support the most vulnerable in Scottish communities.


Scottish Government have agreed a fixed pool of £5m for the period January to end of March 2021 to fund the service. In addition, contractors who participate in this service shall receive a one-off payment of £1,460 per contractor for initial set up costs and to recognise the workload associated.


The interim Chief Pharmaceutical Officer for Scotland Alison Strath has written to the community pharmacy network to inform them of the details of a new time-limited medicine delivery service for Scotland.


The delivery service is a time-limited medicines delivery service for those most at risk will help to alleviate the pressures on the pharmacy network and wider NHS. This cohort would include persons considered as shielding, all patients deemed to be at high risk (as per the NHS influenza vaccination criteria but excluding those aged 55-64), those self-isolating and those whom pharmacists’ professional judgement would warrant such a service.


It is envisaged that this will capture circa 1.5 million people across Scotland. Community pharmacy teams are asked to identify eligible patients and proactively offer the delivery service to them for acute and repeat medications. The service will also support those individuals or households who have been instructed to self-isolate through Test and Protect contact or a positive COVID-19 test.


The service will allow this cohort to stay at home and avoid unnecessary journeys (often on public transport) to community pharmacies, which may involve waiting outside in adverse conditions as a result of necessary COVID-secure ways of working. The service will also help community pharmacy teams to manage their workload and COVID risk from a reduced.


The service will run for an initial three month period, starting 18 January 2021. It will support manageable timescales for delivery and allow for significant uptake.


At the moment dispensing doctor practices are not included in the scheme.


The service will be reviewed prior to the planned end date (end March 2021) to assess the need for any extension.


Nicola Sturgeon commented on the new medicines delivery service at Monday’s daily briefing. She said:


“I would like to flag up the establishment of an NHS medicine delivery service in Scotland. We know that some people find it difficult to visit the local pharmacy, either because of the clinical conditions or because the need is pharmacy is some way away. And that is always true during the winter months when bad weather makes it harder for people to walk to pharmacies, especially if the as the might be right now are required to queue outside before being served.


“Many pharmacies already offered deliveries to some people but we want to establish a more consistent and comprehensive service. So for that reason, we are investing 5 million pounds to establish an NHS medicines delivery service, which will be available to approximately one and a half million people across the country, including those who have been shielding and other people who pharmacists believe would benefit from the service.


“The service will be operational by the end of this month, and it will be available until at least the end of March, although we will keep that under review. This will reduce the need for some people to go out when transmission rates are still high, and it will help people who struggle to get to the nearest pharmacy and ensure that everybody has ready access to the medication that they need.


In a statement published on their website today CPS has said:


“This would support these people to avoid any unnecessary journeys and stay safe at home as far as is possible, which has been important throughout the pandemic but is acutely important at this time with the most recent evidence around the new Covid-19 variant. This will also help to reduce footfall into community pharmacies to help keep pharmacy teams safe and will further recognise the unique contribution of our teams to Scotland’s continued good health.


“It is time-limited, initially until the end of March, and will be reviewed prior to this to determine whether it is required beyond this point.”


Clare Morrison, Royal Pharmaceutical Society Director for Scotland, said:


“This new delivery service is fantastic news for patients and underlines community pharmacy’s key role in supporting people through the Covid pandemic.


“For many people, having to go out during the Covid pandemic to get their medicines is a real concern. We are delighted to see this recognised and addressed by enabling all pharmacies in Scotland to provide a delivery service to patients who are shielding, self-isolating or at risk.


“Our one concern about delivery services, in general, is that they may make it more difficult for a patient to talk to their pharmacist about their medicines. Therefore we would urge all pharmacists to ensure they continue to provide patients with easy ways to access their expertise by providing telephone and Near Me video consultations.”



Covid-19 community pharmacy vaccine campaign begins


Boots, Superdrug and several independent stores will be the first group of community pharmacies to offer vaccinations protecting against Covid-19.


The first pilot sites will start vaccinations today with up to 70 more taking bookings for next week and hundreds opening by the end of the month. The pilot sites are:


  • Boots, Halifax.
  • Andrews Pharmacy, Macclesfield.
  • Appleton Village Pharmacy, Widnes.
  • Superdrug Pharmacy, Guildford.
  • Cullimore Chemist, Edgware.
  • Woodside Pharmacy, Telford.


Two hundred community pharmacies are due to come online over the next fortnight as more vaccine supplies come on stream by the end of the month.


Stores capable of delivering large volumes, while allowing for social distancing, are initially being selected to give the best geographical spread.


Dr Bruce Warner, Deputy Chief Pharmaceutical Officer, said:


“The NHS coronavirus vaccination programme, the biggest in health service history, has got off to a great start with more than 2.4 million jabs delivered.


“Pharmacy teams have been working incredibly hard throughout the pandemic and, as we accelerate the vaccination programme, they are playing a vital role in delivering the life-saving jabs to those in their communities.


“We know that people are very keen to get the vaccine but we are appealing to people not to turn up early so that we can maintain social distancing.”


Health and Social Care Secretary, Matt Hancock, said:


“It is fantastic that high-street pharmacies will now begin deploying COVID-19 vaccinations. Pharmacies sit at the heart of local communities and will make a big difference to our rollout programme by providing even more local, convenient places for those that are eligible to get their jab.


“Pharmacists have worked tirelessly throughout the pandemic, often acting as the first port of call for medical advice – and often staying open when all around have closed. I want to extend my thanks to every pharmacy for their efforts to support the national response to the pandemic and keep people safe.”


Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi said:


“Staff across the NHS have pulled out all the stops to help ramp up vaccinations and are working day and night to keep people safe.


“Pharmacies play a vital role in caring for the nation and I am really pleased to see them coming on stream to help with the national vaccine roll-out effort.”


Simon Dukes, Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee, Chief Executive said:


“It is fantastic to see the first community pharmacy COVID-19 vaccination sites going live this week and we look forward to seeing more pharmacies involved in the programme in due course. We know that patients will value this and that pharmacies can make a significant contribution to the national vaccination efforts.”


Michael Henry, Superdrug’s Healthcare Director said:


“Today sees a significant step forward in making the vaccination more accessible to people most at risk from coronavirus as our pharmacists and nurses use their clinical expertise to deliver the vaccine.


“Guildford is the first of five current Superdrug sites to support the NHS with the rollout of its critical vaccination programme and we are in active discussions for additional vaccination sites through further pharmacy involvement.


“We are proud to be working with the NHS and welcome the opportunity for more of our front-line clinical teams, together with other community pharmacy teams, to play an even greater role in delivering the vaccination service to more patients more quickly.”


Seb James, Managing Director of Boots UK and ROI, said:


“As we begin vaccinations at our Halifax pharmacy today, we are incredibly proud to be supporting the NHS during this extraordinary time. Our pharmacists are experts in vaccination programmes and have a trusted role at the heart of our local communities. Pharmacies are extremely well placed to support the roll-out of this vaccine quickly and safely.”


Mark Lyonette, chief executive of the National Pharmacy Association, which represents independent community pharmacies, said:


“Community pharmacists are eager to play their part in the COVID-19 vaccination programme, and as trusted health care professionals they will have a key role in achieving widespread uptake.


“We are proud that National Pharmacy Association members – who have been on the health service frontline throughout the pandemic – are joining this great national effort to defeat the virus.


“This is a proud moment for community pharmacy and a moment of hope for all.


“We look forward to working with the NHS on the further mobilisation of pharmacies, right across the country.”


Malcolm Harrison, Chief Executive, Company Chemists’ Association said:


“The CCA is delighted that two of its members, Boots and Superdrug, are part of this historic step in the fight against coronavirus. We are fully supportive of community pharmacy teams being involved, using their clinical expertise to help protect at-risk groups against COVID-19. We look forward to working with the NHS to ensure that community pharmacies play an even bigger role in the Covid vaccine programme in the coming weeks and months.”


Dr Leyla Hannbeck, Chief Executive, Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies said:


“We are delighted to see that a number of our members have had their pharmacy-led sites approved to participate in this historic vaccination programme.


“This demonstrates the sheer determination and willingness of pharmacy teams to support the rest of the NHS to vaccinate the nation. We are confident our members will not only deliver to target but exceed the expectations with efficiency and the minimum of disruption to patients.”


Professor Claire Anderson, Chair of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society’s English Pharmacy Board, said:


“Pharmacists are playing a key role in the fight against COVID-19 and this is a welcome step towards their skills being used more widely to support vaccinations in their local communities.


“Pharmacy teams in hospital, primary care and the community are working flat out to support the nation’s health and we look forward to further expansion of the vaccination programme through pharmacy to benefit patients.”


This circular is being shared under the Open Government Copyright licence.