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Many want community pharmacy to play a greater role in COVID-19 vaccination, but we must not forget the significant contribution pharmacists and pharmacy technicians in all sectors have already made and which we should be celebrating:
- All clinical trials for COVID-19 vaccines have had lead pharmacists, who have been essential in medicines management of these new products; managing complex regimens in multi-morbid patients and reacting quickly to change.
- Pharmacy leads at hospital hubs and vaccine centres have navigated the storage and movement restrictions associated with the Pfizer vaccine, and the often-uncertain legal issues surrounding its administration. They’ve had to update staff as they themselves were updated. Pharmacy teams have designed, developed, implemented and quality-assured the processes of vaccine preparation and administration.
- In England, the Specialist Pharmacy Service has developed a comprehensive set of standard operating procedures and associated supporting documentation, and provided crucial support and confidence for pharmacy teams in all settings.
- Across the UK, quality assurance pharmacists have provided specialist expertise, both proactively and reactively, to support vaccine preparation and administration.
- Changing the initial focus of the vaccine programme, from secondary to primary care in a very short timeframe, meant lead pharmacists needed to clinically assure and sign off individual vaccination sites. Their roles at these sites have continued to grow.
- Aseptic pharmacists have provided advice and guidance on new vaccines. Secondary care pharmacists and pharmacy technicians supported many primary care sites with this, providing another great example of cross-sector professional support.
- Pharmacists working in a variety of roles have provided regional and national leadership to the programme. The vaccination programme has moved at incredible pace and has, at times, been extremely challenging. It has put an additional strain on the shoulders of staff already bearing the weight of almost a year of the pandemic.
- Many pharmacists are also working as vaccinators, clinical leads and operational managers at vaccination sites. Changing advice and policy have required those undertaking these roles to be responsive and pragmatic in the face of uncertainty.
During this vaccine programme, pharmacists in primary, secondary and specialist settings have demonstrated a blend of professional, scientific and technical expertise along with a patient-focused, proactive and pragmatic outlook. We have all collaborated and co-operated like never before. At the Guild of Healthcare Pharmacists, we thank every pharmacist across the UK who has been involved in this outstanding team effort.
We are confident that, when community pharmacy becomes involved en masse, those same skills and attributes will bring greater and wider recognition from professional, political and patient onlookers.
Ewan Maule, vice president; Roisin O’Hare, president; Colin Rodden, regional member (Scotland), Guild of Healthcare Pharmacists