Community pharmacies to take part in pilot scheme to administer catch-up MMR vaccines

The scheme has been launched in the north west of England to improve MMR vaccination rates, following the measles outbreak at the beginning of 2024.
young boy receiving injection in upper arm

Community pharmacies in the north west of England are taking part in a pilot scheme to administer measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccines to children.

The initiative is intended to help increase MMR vaccination rates, after the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) declared a national incident in January 2024 regarding a measles outbreak.

Children aged 5–11 years who have missed doses of the jab will be able to get vaccinated at 28 participating pharmacies — 13 in Lancashire and South Cumbria and 15 in Cheshire and Merseyside.

In a statement announcing the pilot scheme, published on 21 March 2024, Tricia Spedding, regional deputy head of public health for NHS England (north west), said: “Measles is a highly infectious illness — complications can be life changing, with dangers including blindness, deafness and swelling of the brain.

“Children who have not yet had both doses of the MMR vaccination are at risk of catching this very serious but completely preventable disease.

“By offering the MMR vaccine in pharmacies to children who missed one or both doses, we are hoping to make it easier and more convenient for parents to get their children protected.”

Uptake of both doses of vaccine — the first dose is usually given to children aged one year and then a second dose at around age three years and four months — is 85.2% in the north west of England, and lower than 80% in some areas. This is significantly lower than the World Health Organization’s target of 95% coverage with two doses of MMR vaccine by age 5 years.

Michael Ball, a pharmacist clinician at Broadway Pharmacy in Preston, Lancashire, which is involved in the pilot scheme, said: “Offering MMR vaccines at community pharmacies provides patients with the chance to access services within their local community at a convenient time, enhancing accessibility and ultimately increasing vaccination rates.

“Our pharmacists are highly skilled in administering vaccinations and providing healthcare advice and reassurance to patients, helping to address any vaccine hesitancy, and ensuring individuals make informed decisions about their health.”

He added that the role of community pharmacists is “rapidly evolving in response to changes in healthcare delivery, technology and patient needs”.

“Pharmacists are increasingly recognised as integral members of the healthcare team, with expanded clinical responsibilities and a greater focus on patient-centred care and public health initiatives aimed at promoting health and preventing disease,” Ball added.

The scheme is planned to be rolled out further to several pharmacies in Greater Manchester later in 2024.

In September 2022, the then Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee — now known as Community Pharmacy England — said that pharmacies could provide a wider range of vaccinations in an overhauled NHS vaccination service, in response to a government consultation.

Steve Brine, chair of the House of Commons Health and Social Care Committee, called for the MMR vaccine to be delivered through community pharmacies in a House of Commons debate on the rise in measles cases in January 2024.

Last updated
The Pharmaceutical Journal, PJ, March 2024, Vol 312, No 7983;312(7983)::DOI:10.1211/PJ.2024.1.306589

    Please leave a comment 

    You may also be interested in