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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The opening of some pharmacy-run vaccination sites in England has been delayed because of supply issues with the Oxford/AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine.
In a frequently asked questions document on the ‘Reduction in vaccine supply in April 2021’ and its implications for pharmacy-led sites, NHS England said that “the majority of wave 14 and 15 sites will be mobilised in late April/early May ”.
However, “a small number” will begin vaccinating patients in early April 2021, it said.
This comes after NHS England said in a letter dated 5 March 2021 that pharmacy sites in the fourteenth “wave” of openings will start vaccinating patients “from either Friday 26 March or Saturday 27 March” 2021.
Pharmacy sites in wave 14 — along with those in wave 13 — were commissioned following a call for expressions of interest in February 2021, and only included sites that were able to deliver 400 vaccinations per week.
But on 17 March 2021, NHS officials wrote to all vaccination sites warning of “a significant reduction in weekly supply available from manufacturers” of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine from the week commencing 29 March 2021, and announced in a webinar that some sites “will need to stand down for some of April ”.
As a result, NHS England said in its latest FAQs that it now “plans to take a phased approach to mobilising wave 14 community pharmacy sites”.
“A small number of priority sites are going live in early April , following an initial vaccine delivery on Thursday 1 April ,” it said, adding that the national booking service calendars at these sites “will automatically be unblocked so that they can add first dose appointments to use up the initial vaccine supply”.
But the document added: “The majority of wave 14 and 15 sites will be mobilised in late April/early May  — regional teams will confirm the specific timeframe for individual sites.”
Pharmacy sites in waves 6 to 13 will receive vaccines for first and second doses during the weeks beginning 29 March and 5 April 2021, it continued.
The delay follows comments made by pharmacy minister Jo Churchill to MPs, saying that the government planned to double the number of pharmacy-led vaccination sites from 200 to 400 sites by the end of March 2021.
An NHS spokesperson told The Pharmaceutical Journal: “In line with available supply, we are prioritising critical access locations, and adjust where vaccines are given based on the volume of jabs being made available to the NHS.
“Community pharmacies have been vital in delivering the vaccination programme and will continue to help the roll-out of vaccinations across the country.”
As of 22 March 2021, pharmacy-led sites have administered more than 1.7 million COVID-19 vaccinations.