NHS to add 1,000 pharmacy-led sites to COVID-19 vaccination programme ahead of booster campaign

This follows interim advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation to revaccinate vulnerable patients against COVID-19 from September 2021.
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Some 1,000 additional community pharmacy sites will be added to the COVID-19 vaccination programme in England ahead of a revaccination campaign in September 2021, the NHS has said.

In a letter sent to all community pharmacies on 1 July 2021, NHS England said the additional sites will contribute to the delivery of 3.5 million vaccinations per week.

The letter says it intends to publish service specifications for the revaccination campaign “in the first part of July [2021] with a view to confirming those who would like to opt-in in mid to late July”.

This comes after interim advice published by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) on 30 June 2021 outlined proposals for a potential two-stage COVID-19 booster vaccine programme, which it says “should begin in September 2021”.

As part of the first stage, particularly vulnerable people should receive a COVID-19 booster vaccine, with all adults aged 50 years and over being offered both vaccines as part of a second stage that will start as soon as possible “after stage one”.

The JCVI said it “considers that, where possible, a synergistic approach to the delivery of COVID-19 and influenza vaccination could support delivery and maximise uptake of both vaccines” in 2021/2022.

This is ahead of what it describes as a flu season that could be “up to 50% larger than typically seen,” referencing modelling undertaken by the University of Warwick.

“It is also possible that the 2021/22 influenza season will begin earlier than usual,” the advice added.

The committee said the circulation of flu was “very limited” in 2020/2021, owing to social distancing measures, which means “a lower level of population immunity against influenza is expected”.

As a result, the JCVI is again advising that the flu vaccination programme be extended to adults aged 50 years and over.

In February 2021, NHS England advised community pharmacies to order enough flu vaccines for the 2021/2022 season to “at least” match the record-breaking number of vaccines administered in 2020/2021.

Ravi Sharma, director for England at the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, said the Society would like to see “widespread involvement” of community pharmacy in co-delivering COVID-19 booster vaccinations and flu jabs.

“As we look to the future, the government and NHS must now make the most of pharmacists’ skills to support the NHS recovery, improve patient safety and reduce health inequalities,” Sharma continued.

“Supply of vaccinations will need to be maintained to ensure implementation can be maximised, and pharmacists will need to be supported to ensure their wellbeing.”

A spokesperson for the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee said that community pharmacies are “ideally placed to play a significant role in the COVID-19 vaccination booster programme, particularly given their incredible track record on flu vaccinations and the work of the 600+ pharmacies already administering COVID-19 vaccines”.

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Citation
The Pharmaceutical Journal, PJ, July 2021, Vol 307, No 7951;307(7951)::DOI:10.1211/PJ.2021.1.94354