More than 350 new pharmacies in England have been commissioned to provide COVID-19 jabs, as the NHS officially launches its autumn booster campaign for at-risk patients today.
Data published by NHS England on 1 September 2022 show that 1,845 community pharmacies are now registered to offer COVID-19 vaccinations, an extra 358 pharmacy sites compared with data published on 10 August 2022.
The increase in pharmacy-led sites comes as NHS England begins its COVID-19 booster campaign in care homes from 5 September 2022, with appointments to open from 7 September 2022 for 7 million people, including those aged 75 years and over, those who are immunosuppressed, and health and care workers.
According to a statement from NHS England, published on 5 September 2022, a record 3,100 sites are expected to be part of the booster campaign.
In the lead up to the campaign, the government and Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee agreed to implement a ‘Community Pharmacy National Enhanced Service’ for the provision of booster vaccinations between 1 September 2022 and 31 March 2023.
However, pharmacy representatives were “disappointed” that the funding per vaccination would be cut from £12.58 to £10.06 under the new service agreement, with some suggesting that this would “challenge the viability of the service” for pharmacies offering the vaccinations.
Jay Patel, executive director of Day Lewis Pharmacy Group, said that, in addition to its 39 pharmacy sites offering vaccinations in 2021, “we have had approval for another 27, taking our total to 66 sites”.
“However, we had actually submitted applications for 150 pharmacy sites. Over the past year we have trained over 300 non-pharmacist vaccinators in addition to our pharmacists. The teams are really excited to play their part in tackling this pandemic.”
George Sandhu, deputy superintendent pharmacist and service manager at Well, which has opened an additional 57 vaccination sites, bringing its total number of sites to 121, said the multiple “felt it was important to continue offering COVID-19 booster vaccinations across multiple locations to help protect as many patients as possible, provide choice and support the wider NHS”.
“We have trained our pharmacists and non-medical vaccinators to deliver the winter programme. Our pharmacists are embracing clinical services as it allows them to fully use their clinical knowledge and skills to deliver effective patient outcomes and improve the nation’s health,” he said.
Which vaccines will be offered through the booster campaign?
In a statement published on 3 September 2022, Steve Barclay, health and social care secretary, accepted advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation to offer a bivalent COVID-19 vaccine, manufactured by Pfizer/BioNTech, as a booster jab, in addition to a bivalent vaccine manufactured by Moderna.
He said: “Along with the Moderna bivalent vaccine, this safe and effective vaccine will target two different variants — Omicron and the original COVID strain.
“These innovative vaccines will broaden immunity and strengthen our defences against what remains a life-threatening virus.”
The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) approved Pfizer/BioNTech’s bivalent vaccine on 3 September 2022 for use in individuals aged 12 years and above.
This followed the MHRA’s approval of Moderna’s bivalent vaccine on 15 August 2022, which made the UK the first country to authorise a bivalent COVID-19 vaccine.
If unopened, the Moderna vaccine can be stored in a refrigerator at 2–8°C for a maximum of 30 days, while Pfizer/BioNTech’s offering can be stored for 10 weeks at the same temperatures.