Open access article
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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NHS England has called on community pharmacies in more than 100 parts of the country to express interest in providing COVID-19 vaccinations.
This is the third round of calls for expressions of interest, following the initial request in December 2020 and a further request in February 2021.
In the latest round, only pharmacies situated in “priority locations” have until 18 April 2021 to register their interest in becoming a COVID-19 vaccination site.
The priority list includes 22 locations in London, 30 locations in the North East and Yorkshire, and 34 locations in the North West, as well as 19 locations in the South West and one in the East of England.
Prospective sites in London will be required to administer 1,000 vaccines per week, while sites in the North West could be asked to deliver up to 3,000 per week.
The government had previously lowered the threshold to 400 COVID-19 vaccines per week for interested pharmacies.
NHS England said in a letter dated 12 April 2021 that it “will only be accepting expressions of interest for these locations”.
“While we’ve taken care to include only areas where there is a realistic opportunity to use a pharmacy-led site, inclusion does not guarantee that a pharmacy-led site will be set up in that area,” it said.
The letter added that the request is part of ongoing planning as some “venues resume their previous uses, and for continuing access where current [primary care network] sites have chosen to opt out of extending their COVID-19 enhanced service to focus on a return to business-as-usual primary care activities”.
In a letter sent to GP-led vaccination sites in March 2021, NHS England had said that more vaccine providers would be sought to fill in gaps in population coverage left by GP sites that had opted out of providing vaccination services to cohorts 10 to 12.
The government announced on 13 April 2021 that half of cohort 10 — patients aged over 45 years — were now eligible for a COVID-19 vaccination, after it had hit its target of offering vaccines to all patients over 50 years ahead of schedule.
The Joint Committee on Vaccines and Immunisation said on 13 April 2021 that phase 2 of the vaccination programme would continue based on age, with cohort 10 including all those aged 40–49 years; cohort 11 including all those aged 30–39 years; and cohort 12 including all those aged 18–29 years.
As of 2 April 2021, 325 pharmacies have been commissioned to administer COVID-19 vaccinations across England.
NHS England said that it expects the first sites “identified as part of this process will start operating their pharmacy-led Local Vaccination Service during May 2021 or as vaccine supply and system-need permits”.