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COVID-19 vaccine delivery will need as many community pharmacy vaccinators as possible

NHS England has confirmed that there will be “a number of different ways community pharmacy can get involved” in COVID-19 vaccination efforts.

Open access article

The Royal Pharmaceutical Society has made this article free to access in order to help healthcare professionals stay informed about an issue of national importance.

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NHS England is preparing for the huge task of delivering COVID-19 vaccines, including through community pharmacies

Delivery of a COVID-19 vaccine to the public will require the participation of “as many of the workforce who are trained in vaccination as possible” from community pharmacy, an NHS England official has said.

Jill Loader, deputy director of pharmacy commissioning at NHS England and NHS Improvement, said there were “a number of different ways community pharmacy can get involved” in the COVID-19 vaccine delivery programme, with some community pharmacies expected to be commissioned as a vaccination site through a locally enhanced service.

Speaking during a webinar to community pharmacists and GPs on 18 November 2020, Loader said pharmacists could participate through “mass vaccination sites or trust sites, or the PCN [primary care network] sites that will be providing these [vaccines], because they’ll need to vaccinate for long hours”.

“We anticipate that we are going to need to use as many of the workforce who are trained in vaccination as possible,” she said.

Her comments follow a letter sent from NHS England to general practices on 9 November 2020, asking PCNs to designate one GP practice site each, from which at least 975 COVID-19 vaccines could be delivered each week.

The letter said designated sites would need to be able to deliver a vaccination service seven days per week, including bank holidays, between 08:00 and 20:00.

However, Loader noted that “there might be some areas where we don’t have the provision that we need and when we’re looking at that provision, we might look to fill some of that with providers from community pharmacy”.

Also, these pharmacies would need to meet the same requirements as GP sites, such as having enough fridge capacity at between two and eight degrees Celsius to administer 975 vaccines per week.

The pharmacies would also need enough space and trained workforce to prepare the vaccine, which could include dilution, using standard aseptic technique, and drawing up of multidose vials in all cases.

Loader said that NHS England does not “anticipate that most community pharmacy contractors will be getting involved with [delivering COVID-19 vaccines], although there might be some”.

For the pharmacies chosen as vaccination sights, a slide accompanying the webinar said NHS England would “also commission a LES [local enhanced service] from a small number of community pharmacies”.

Another slide said similar funding arrangements to those set out for general practice “are expected to be in place for community pharmacy providers”.

Under the current arrangements for GPs, providers will be paid £12.58 per vaccine dose. If the vaccine requires multiple doses, the provider will be paid after the final dose is given.

Providers will also be supplied with diluents for the vaccine, dilution syringes, combined needles and syringes for administration, for free.

Ed Waller, director of primary care at NHS England and Improvement said it planned to publish a service specification for general practice “shortly”, adding that this would then be followed by “something very similar for community pharmacy”.

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2020.20208566

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