More than 2.5 million influenza vaccinations have been delivered through community pharmacies in England so far during the 2020/2021 flu season; over a million more than were delivered by pharmacies during the entire 2019/2020 flu season.
In addition, in Wales, 88,241 influenza vaccinations were delivered through community pharmacy between September 2020 and December 2020, compared with 61,756 delivered during the same time period in the year before.
Mark Griffiths, chair of Community Pharmacy Wales, said this was a “remarkable achievement” considering the challenges of flu vaccine supply in November 2020 and the ongoing increased pressure on the community pharmacy network during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“In congratulating 595 of 713 community pharmacy teams across Wales in breaking records for flu vaccination deployment, I am more convinced than ever of the potential of community pharmacy to make a significant contribution to Wales’ COVID-19 vaccine programme,” he said.
“As the recent Welsh government pilot service demonstrated, community pharmacies provide an accessible and convenient setting for COVID-19 vaccinations.
“While recognising this vaccination programme will be complex and challenging, community pharmacy teams are eager to maximise their contribution to the rollout of the vaccine.
“They recognise that the delivery of the vaccine needs to be undertaken with urgency and determination, and wish to be involved in vaccinating as many of the categories of people to be vaccinated as possible.”
At the end of 2020, pharmacy technicians in North Wales started administering flu vaccines as part of a pilot to manage increased demand. The vaccines are administered by pharmacy technicians and a preregistration pharmacy student, under patient specific directions, as part of a community pharmacy enhanced service in two Fferyllwyr Llyn pharmacies on the Llyn peninsula in North West Wales.
The pilot follows changes to UK-wide legislation in October 2020, which now allow a broader workforce to deliver flu vaccines.
Commenting on the number of vaccines delivered in England, Alastair Buxton, director of NHS services at the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee, said: “Community pharmacy teams have made fantastic efforts to vaccinate more people than ever before against flu.
”In fact, the sector surpassed their previous total before the end of October . What makes this even more remarkable is that it was achieved in the middle of a pandemic when staff were already stretched.”
In November 2020, three pharmacy multiples — Well, LloydsPharmacy and Boots — all suspended online bookings for flu vaccinations owing to high demand.
To meet demand, community pharmacies have been able to order from government-held stocks of flu vaccines.
From 15 January 2021, these supplies could be used to vaccinate private patients in addition to patients aged over 50 years as part of the NHS scheme.