More than 3,500 community pharmacies in England have been commissioned to provide COVID-19 jabs for the 2023 autumn booster programme.
According to figures published by NHS England on 6 December 2023, there were 3,511 community pharmacies registered to deliver COVID-19 vaccines as part of the 2023 autumn booster programme.
There were 1,845 community pharmacies registered to offer COVID-19 vaccines in the 2022 booster season, according to data published on 1 September 2022.
The increase in community pharmacy sites follows the launch of the winter vaccines campaign for flu and COVID-19 on 18 September 2023.
More than 30 million people are eligible for the COVID-19 jab, including those aged 65 years and over, pregnant women and people with an underlying health condition.
The 2023 COVID-19 and flu vaccination programme was brought forward from an original planned start date of October 2023, following the emergence of new COVID-19 variant BA.2.86.
Community pharmacies can claim an item of service fee of £7.54 per COVID-19 vaccination, which is lower than the fee of £10.06 per vaccination during the winter 2022/2023 programme.
The 2022/2023 fee was a reduction from the £12.58 per COVID-19 vaccination that community pharmacies had been paid prior to that.
However, in a letter sent to all community pharmacies on 30 August 2023, NHS England said that providers would receive an additional £5 acceleration payment for each COVID-19 vaccination administered to eligible people between 11 September and 31 October 2023.
Commenting on the figures, Alastair Buxton, director of NHS services at Community Pharmacy England, said: “The participation of nearly a third of community pharmacies in the latest COVID vaccination programme, despite significant ongoing financial and operational challenges the sector is experiencing, is testament to the willingness of pharmacy owners to play their part in important public health initiatives. The new approach to commissioning the programme, which enabled many more pharmacies to opt-in, was a welcome development.
“However, the decision by NHS England to reduce the COVID-19 vaccination fee this year defied logic. We will continue our work to push for the setting of appropriate fees for all community pharmacy services.”