Community pharmacies in England have been offered an extra £2.50 per vaccination if they agree to offer the COVID-19 jab as part of a potential NHS spring vaccination campaign.
NHS England has written to pharmacies that provided the autumn vaccination service to ask whether they would be willing to extend the duration of their contract until 31 August 2024, if the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation advises a spring vaccination programme in guidance expected to be published soon.
According to figures published by NHS England on 6 December 2024, there were 3,511 community pharmacies signed up to deliver COVID-19 vaccinations between 1 September 2023 and 31 March 2024, as part of the autumn booster programme.
The supplemental payment of £2.50 per administered COVID-19 vaccination from 1 April 2024 would be in addition to the existing item of service fee of £7.54, NHS England said.
In a statement published on 2 February 2024, Community Pharmacy England (CPE) said: “The additional payment is to recognise that a spring booster programme is unable to benefit from cost efficiencies linked to co-administration of COVID-19 and flu vaccines.
“Pharmacy owners that vaccinate a housebound patient in their home (not in a care home) will be able to claim an additional £10 fee,” CPE added.
Commenting on the announcement, Alastair Buxton, director of NHS services at CPE, said: “The additional supplemental fee for the spring COVID-19 booster programme is a welcome move by NHS England in response to the case we put to them on the need for additional funding.
“However, we still do not believe the baseline funding for the service is adequate. Despite the arguments for increased funding we put to NHS England, the baseline funding doesn’t recognise the recent inflationary increases in costs pharmacy owners have suffered, nor will it provide for the entirely predictable increases in costs which will be seen over the year ahead, such as the increase in the national minimum wage.”
The NHS winter 2023/2024 COVID-19 seasonal booster vaccination programme ended on 31 January 2024. Following the end of the service, pharmacy clinical service provider Pharmadoctor said it had launched the UK’s first private COVID-19 vaccination service.
Pharmacies offering the service will deliver the Novavax vaccine to members of the public from £45 per jab, with vaccines available for delivery by 1 April 2024.
Pharmacy multiples confirmed to The Pharmaceutical Journal that they were considering offering a private COVID-19 vaccination service, with a spokesperson for Boots saying that it “would like to offer private COVID-19 vaccinations” and is “looking into how this might be possible”.
A spokesperson for Superdrug said the firm was “speaking directly with suppliers about potentially offering a private COVID vaccination service this year”.
In response to a parliamentary question about the COVID-19 vaccination programme, answered on 18 January 2024, health minister Maria Caulfield, said: “The government is supportive of the emergence of a private market for COVID-19 vaccines.
“Supply of vaccines for such a market would be, as with all other vaccines, a matter for the private providers working with manufacturers to obtain through the open market.”
Vaccine manufacturers Moderna and Pfizer have both released statements saying that they are looking into offering COVID-19 vaccines to healthcare providers for private sale.
A spokesperson for Moderna told The Pharmaceutical Journal that this was “likely to be for the 2024/25 COVID-19 season”.