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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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The government has announced a “revaccination campaign” alongside its roadmap to easing lockdown restrictions that were introduced in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Pharmacy bodies have responded to the plans, saying community pharmacies will play a “key part” in the campaign.
In a report published by the prime minister on 22 February 2021, the government included a target to offer every adult in England their first COVID-19 vaccination dose by 31 July 2021, but the report added that “the government is planning for a revaccination campaign, which is likely to run later [in 2021] in autumn or winter”.
“Any revaccination is likely to consist of a single ‘booster’ dose of a COVID-19 vaccine: the ideal booster may be a new vaccine specifically designed against a variant form of the virus,” the report said, adding that revaccination “is likely to become a regular part of managing COVID-19”.
The report said a revaccination programme was needed because of a lack of knowledge around the length of time people are protected from the first round of COVID-19 vaccinations.
“It is also possible that new variants of the virus may emerge against which current vaccines are less effective,” the report said.
“As well as working closely with manufacturers, government scientists are seeking to better understand the impact of some variants of concern on the vaccines currently in deployment.”
Gareth Jones, head of corporate affairs at the National Pharmacy Association, said community pharmacies “will be key” to the success of a revaccination programme as “infrastructure for mass vaccination centres cannot be maintained indefinitely”.
“Building on the experience of pharmacists in delivering flu and COVID-19 vaccines and community pharmacy’s convenient network, and assuming appropriate support from government, our members will be ready to play a big role in the revaccination campaign,” he said.
“England’s network of 11,500 community pharmacies is a formidable asset in our response to the COVID-19 pandemic,” Jones added. “They are collectively capable of protecting millions of people if given the opportunity.”
Malcolm Harrison, chief executive of the Company Chemists’ Association, also said that he expects pharmacies to “be a key part of the COVID-19 revaccination campaign later [in 2021]”.
“Community pharmacy teams have shown their commitment and professionalism throughout the pandemic and we are confident the sector will be able to adapt to deliver this service alongside other commitments, so long as it is funded fairly,” he said.
Nat Mitchell, pharmacist and director at JWW Allison and Sons pharmacy in Cockermouth, Cumbria, told The Pharmaceutical Journal that, if required, his pharmacy “could incorporate the work into our regular routine without it adversely affecting regular service”.
“This obviously won’t be the case for everyone,” he said. “The best chance of general practice carrying out routine work this winter is if we assist with booster doses as I can’t see them being able to stretch themselves like they have to provide the vaccination service at present without burning out.”
“I would love for our pharmacy to be involved, as would our community who really like to access vaccination services from us every year,” Mitchell continued.
The government’s plans for revaccination follow renewed calls from NHS England for community pharmacies to apply for designated status as COVID-19 vaccination service sites.