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COVID-19 vaccination sites led by community pharmacies will start administering vaccines to patients in England from the week beginning 11 January 2021, NHS England has said.
The announcement comes as high street multiple Boots told The Pharmaceutical Journal that it will open three COVID-19 vaccination sites in Halifax, West Yorkshire, Huddersfield, West Yorkshire and Gloucester from “early January”.
In a letter sent to designated community pharmacy-led vaccination sites on 28 December 2020, NHS England said that contractors must sign the COVID-19 vaccination local enhanced service (LES) agreement that will allow them to operate by 23:59 on 4 January 2021 “for a planned go-live from week commencing 11 January 2021”.
The LES, which “sets out the detail of how NHS England and NHS Improvement will commission a COVID-19 vaccination service directly from community pharmacy”, was published on 28 December 2020.
Pharmacy contractors had been asked to apply for designated vaccination site status by 6 December 2020, with NHS England sending their decision back to contractors by 18 December 2020.
The letter from NHS England said: “Further to conversations with your region, we are writing to confirm that your Local Vaccination Service (LVS) designated site should be stood up in the week beginning 4 January 2021 in order to be ready to administer vaccines following a delivery of the vaccine from 11 January 2021.”
It added that sites will undergo a readiness assessment, with NHS England sending final confirmation of the sites that are ready by 7 January 2021. Sites that are not ready will be contacted with their next steps.
A spokesperson for Boots said that it “will initially open three COVID-19 vaccination sites, based in Halifax, Huddersfield and Gloucester”.
“They will begin vaccinating patients in early January,” they said, adding that the multiple has “developed a model for COVID-19 vaccination that is aligned with our exceptional safety, clinical and operational standards”.
“We stand ready to do much more and our national network of pharmacy expertise is prepped to support the NHS and the government to accelerate the rollout of the vaccine.”
Janice Perkins, pharmacy superintendent for Well Pharmacy, said the multiple is ”currently working with the NHS on how we can support the roll out of the University of Oxford/AztraZeneca vaccine to help protect the local communities we serve”.
According to the NHS England letter, community pharmacy contractors will receive £8m “to cover reasonable additional costs (over and above the usual fee structures) associated with the COVID-19 Vaccination Programme”.
The costs will cover venue hire “where it is not possible to use the pharmacy premises, or NHS vacant space”, increased electricity bill costs and “specific and reasonable security costs advised by local police”.
The funding will not cover additional staff costs, personal protective equipment or indemnity.
The letter adds that “COVID-19 vaccination activity undertaken in community pharmacy in line with the LES agreement will be covered by state indemnity”.
The Pharmaceutical Journal has contacted NHS England for details on the number of community pharmacy-led sites that have been designated to administer COVID-19 vaccines.