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The Royal Pharmaceutical Society has made this article free to access in order to help healthcare professionals stay informed about an issue of national importance.
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Community pharmacy teams will be vaccinated against COVID-19 alongside all other health and social care professionals as part of the government’s vaccination programme.
In a statement, the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) said NHS England and Improvement had confirmed to the negotiator that pharmacy staff would be included in this cohort, which is second on the priority list for vaccinations recommended to the government by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI).
In September 2020, the JCVI published an interim prioritised list of patient groups, setting out who would receive the vaccine first.
Health and social care workers are listed alongside patients aged 80 years and over, after “older adults resident in a care home and care home workers”.
However, the JCVI notes that a “final decision on the prioritisation for health and social care workers will be dependent on vaccine characteristics and the epidemiology at the start of any programme”.
The confirmation comes as the government begins to ready the NHS to deliver COVID-19 vaccines from December, following the news that the vaccine being trialled by Pfizer and BioNTech was found to be more than 90% effective.
In a letter to GPs dated 9 November 2020, NHS England advised primary care networks (PCNs) to nominate at least one site where a minimum of 975 vaccinations can take place each week.
The letter said practices “will need to provide the majority of the required staff from their own workforce”, but adds that “PCN partners in … community pharmacy may be able to support delivery”.
Documents published alongside the letter also state that practices will be required to set out relevant financial arrangements “relating to other healthcare providers (such as community pharmacies) outside its PCN grouping involved in local delivery” of the vaccine, as part of a mandatory ‘Covid-19 Enhanced Service Vaccination Collaboration Agreement’.
The PSNC has said it is in talks with the government about the involvement of community pharmacy in the vaccination programme but warned that “the programme will work very differently to flu vaccination”.
Sandra Gidley, president of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, said it was also meeting with the government “this week to discuss … how pharmacists can be integrated into vaccine programmes in the future”.
“Pharmacy has a track record of delivering vaccination programmes across the healthcare system and must be involved in providing COVID-19 vaccines to enable the widest possible access for patients.
“We recognise the impact this could have on teams already stretched to capacity, but through collaboration with primary care colleagues we can help ensure an agile and flexible approach to vaccine provision across the country.”
Gidley added that it was “vital” for pharmacy staff to be in the first wave of those vaccinated against COVID-19 “to ensure the wellbeing of the workforce”.
Speaking at a press conference on 11 November 2020, Jonathan Van-Tam, deputy chief medical officer for England, said the vaccination delivery programme presented “a mammoth challenge”.
“The models that we will need to deliver that high-volume, high-impact vaccination programme will have to be innovative,” he said.
“So, there will be some form of mass vaccination approach; there will be some form of mobile pop-up vaccination centres; there will be the standard methods of delivery that we see that work successfully every year for flu.”
He added that further details on the COVID-19 vaccine delivery programme would be set out next week.