Community pharmacies in England have been praised for administering 22 million COVID-19 jabs since they began vaccinating on 14 January 2021.
Figures suggest that pharmacies have delivered nearly 20% of the COVID-19 vaccinations administered in England, totalling 113,919,783 reported up to 11 January 2022.
This achievement comes almost one year after the first six community pharmacies across the country started administering COVID-19 vaccinations on 14 January 2021, becoming the first of 1,500 pharmacy-led vaccination sites that have since opened in England.
The inclusion of community pharmacies in the vaccination programme followed an initial roll-out in hospitals, where Margaret Keenan received the world’s first COVID-19 vaccine at University Hospital in Coventry on 8 December 2020.
Since then, community pharmacies have been added to the vaccination programme in subsequent waves and, on 5 January 2022, vaccines minister Maggie Throup told the House of Commons that NHS England was “currently running a further expression of interest exercise for community pharmacy, in areas where there are gaps in the provision of booster vaccination”.
However, delays in taking up expressions of interest from pharmacies have been described as “scandalous” by pharmacy representatives, after it was revealed that just one in three bids to join the programme were accepted.
Mark Lyonette, chief executive of the National Pharmacy Association, described the involvement of pharmacies in the vaccination programme as a “staggering achievement”.
“The sector has made an outstanding contribution to the vaccination programme and is proud to be part of this remarkable NHS effort,” he said.
“More pharmacies have put themselves forward and these should be processed speedily, with the immediate booster programme in mind as well as readying pharmacies for a future, ongoing role.”
Alastair Buxton, director of NHS services at the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC), said community pharmacy teams “should be proud of the way they have worked hard to set themselves up as COVID vaccination sites, overcoming obstacles around logistics, staffing and safety”.
“Just over a year ago we were fighting for Government recognition of the part community pharmacy could play in administering COVID-19 vaccines, so a year later it is great to see the efforts of the pharmacy vaccination sites being praised by NHS England, with recognition of the significant role they have played in the overall programme,” he said.
Buxton added that the PSNC would be “arguing for pharmacy’s role in any ongoing programme, pointing to the fantastic achievements of the sector as solid evidence of pharmacy’s value”.
Emily Lawson, vaccination lead for NHS England, said in a statement that pharmacies “have delivered an incredible 22 million vaccines, including around a third of all booster jabs as they stepped up to join the national effort to tackle Omicron”.
According to the latest government data, the NHS has administered a total of 30,121,626 booster vaccinations as of 11 January 2022.
Lawson added: “I would like to pay tribute to the outstanding work of the 1,500 community pharmacy teams who have played such a vital role in the most successful vaccination programme in NHS history — pharmacists play a unique role at the heart of communities and have been pivotal in getting jabs to the most vulnerable on their doorsteps.”