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A late-night pharmacy in Greenwich, London is to start offering the Oxford/AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine from 20 January 2021 and the owner has said they could provide vaccinations until 22:30, if needed.
Woolwich Late Night Pharmacy is the only community pharmacy in Greenwich to be approved as an NHS COVID-19 vaccine site and one of just 15 community pharmacy sites to be providing the vaccine across London.
Sobha Sharma Kandel, who owns three pharmacies across Greenwich borough, including the Woolwich branch, said that the pharmacy would initially be delivering the vaccine between 08:00 and 20:00, as required by NHS England, but that it would be able to increase its opening hours to 07:30 to 22:30, if it was required.
“One of the criteria is that you have the capacity to vaccinate 1,000 people a week, so we are prepared for that … but I think we are going to be busy looking at the experience of others; we have a WhatsApp group of all the London sites that have gone live — talking to other pharmacists, they’ve been quite busy.”
Kandel will be delivering the vaccination alongside the superintendent pharmacist at first, but she said she had “a pool of people” she can approach if needed, including a pharmacy technician from another of her pharmacy branches, who was recently trained and will likely be helping with vaccination delivery a couple of days per week.
She added that it was owing to the size of Woolwich Late Night Pharmacy — as well as its consultation rooms, which are separate to the main pharmacy — that it was approved as one of the first community pharmacy vaccination sites.
“The main criteria was that it wouldn’t disrupt the main pharmacy operations, so we thought we fit the criteria … NHS England did a virtual tour, and then a site visit a couple of weeks later.
“They really liked the layout — [the pharmacy has a] big hallway and two consultation rooms separate to the main pharmacy … so we got approved on 31 December 2020, then we did the training and are now just waiting for the vaccine delivery, which should be tomorrow.”
On 13 January 2021, prime minister Boris Johnson told the House of Commons that the vaccine administration would be “going to 24/7 as soon as we can”.
And, on 18 January 2021, Nadhim Zahawi, parliamentary under-secretary of state for COVID-19 vaccine deployment, was reported as saying that 24-hour vaccination sites would be piloted in London before the end of January 2021.
On 14 January 2021, Keir Starmer, leader of the Labour Party, called for the government to capitalise on community pharmacies’ offers to support the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine to help deliver a faster, 24/7 programme by the end of February 2021.
However, a spokesperson for NHS England confirmed to The Pharmaceutical Journal that the community pharmacy vaccination programme would remain at 12 hours “at this time”.
According to a press release from NHS England, 200 community pharmacies are due to start vaccinations over the next fortnight as more vaccine supplies come on stream by the end of January 2021. Stores capable of delivering large volumes, while allowing for social distancing, are initially being selected to give the best geographical spread, NHS England said.