Community pharmacies in Scotland will be able to provide NHS flu vaccinations for the first time during the 2020/2021 flu season, the government has confirmed.
It follows the Scottish government’s announcement on 7 August 2020 that eligibility for NHS flu vaccines would be expanded to include people aged 55–64 years, social care workers and households of those who are shielding in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a comment to The Pharmaceutical Journal, a spokesperson for the Scottish government said it was working with NHS health boards “to ensure that they have local delivery models in place to meet the needs of their communities for this season’s flu immunisation programme”.
The spokesperson added that the delivery models “will include the use of general practice, community pharmacy and a range of other primary care healthcare professionals”.
Community pharmacists were not previously able to provide flu vaccinations under the national service. However, NHS Lothian and NHS Glasgow and Clyde piloted their provision in community pharmacy during 2019/2020.
The Scottish government explained that the ability for community pharmacy to administer vaccines was now widely permitted under the Coronavirus Act 2020 and is time-limited for two years.
It added that remuneration for delivering flu vaccines “will be agreed with Community Pharmacy Scotland (CPS)”.
A spokesperson for CPS told The Pharmaceutical Journal that it “would expect pharmacies to be remunerated in line with other primary care partners, as many of the considerations will be the same for service delivery, particularly at this challenging time”.
In 2019/2020, GPs in Scotland were paid between £7.17 and £9.39 per vaccination for those aged 65 years and over, depending on the number of vaccinations delivered. Other target groups had a flat payment of £7.67 per vaccine that year.
Jonathan Burton, chair of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society’s Scottish Pharmacy Board, said the ability for pharmacists to contribute to the NHS flu vaccination service “is most welcome”, having provided “private influenza and other vaccination services safely and effectively for many years now”.
“Community pharmacies, embedded in local communities and providing convenient access to healthcare, are a natural home for many public health services and, in Scotland, already provide very successful national emergency hormonal contraception and smoking cessation services,” he said.
The expansion of eligibility for flu vaccines in Scotland follows similar expansions in England and Wales, which now include people aged 50–64 years “subject to vaccine supply”.
However, the Scottish government has chosen to prioritise people aged 55–64 years, with ministers indicating in a letter to pharmacists “that the programme should be extended to those aged 50–54, if vaccine supply allows”.