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Influenza (Flu)

Pharmacists able to vaccinate care home staff at work during 2020/2021 flu season

Community pharmacists in England, who were previously only allowed to vaccinate care home residents, will be able to vaccinate staff in the same visit.

elderly woman flu vaccine

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The expanded flu vaccination programme will see 30 million people eligible for free flu vaccines

Community pharmacists in England will be able to vaccinate both the residents and staff of residential care and nursing homes in a single visit during the 2020/2021 flu season.

An update on the national flu immunisation programme, published by the government on 5 August 2020, says the ‘Community Pharmacy Seasonal Influenza Advanced Service Framework’ will be amended to reflect this change.

Pharmacists were previously only allowed to vaccinate residents, with staff expected to make their own arrangements.

The update, from the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) and Public Health England, comes after the government announced an expanded flu vaccination programme in July 2020, which will see 30 million people eligible for free flu vaccines.

The new cohorts include households of those on the shielded patient list and children in the first year of secondary schools.

People aged 50 to 64 years were also expected to be included in the expanded programme, but the latest letter says this will now be “subject to vaccine supply” in November and December 2020.

The update recommends a range of ways to deliver flu vaccines this year, including implementing “social distancing innovations such as drive in vaccinations and ‘car as waiting room’ models, if possible”.

However, the letter stops short of providing permission for community pharmacy to vaccinate patients away from the pharmacy premises, which the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) had previously said they were negotiating for.

The PSNC said in a summary on its website that “confirmed flexibilities” for the profession would be published separately.

The DHSC confirmed to The Pharmaceutical Journal that negotiations are still ongoing around the Community Pharmacy 2020/2021 Seasonal Influenza Vaccination Advanced Service, but consideration is being given to the introduction of flexibilities, including off-site provision, with more details to come.

The government update also notes that the DHSC is planning to consult with “key stakeholders and the public” on expanding “the workforce that is able to administer vaccinations as part of the COVID-19 response”.

In July, Matt Hancock, the health secretary, announced an intention to “expand” who can legally provide vaccinations to include technicians. However, he did not specify whether his reference to technicians indicated pharmacy technicians.

The PSNC declined to comment further as negotiations with the government continue.

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2020.20208246

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