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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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Pharmacists will have “a massive role” to play in administering vaccinations against COVID-19 — when one becomes available — Matt Hancock, the health and social care secretary, has said.
Speaking on 15 July 2020, Hancock said that the government would be using “all the assets” it had to get the COVID-19 vaccination out to the public, adding that he would be “expanding” who could legally provide vaccinations.
“I’m expanding who can legally vaccinate to make sure that [it is] not just GPs, but also technicians and nurses and pharmacists — pharmacists have got a massive role to play in this,” he said.
In pharmacy, patient group directions (PGDs) must be used, meaning pharmacy technicians cannot currently legally vaccinate. In 2018, the Guild of Healthcare Pharmacists called for pharmacy technicians to be included in the list of healthcare professionals eligible to use PGDs.
Hancock did not specify if his reference to technicians meant pharmacy technicians; however, Liz Fidler, president of the Association for Pharmacy Technicians UK, said she “sincerely” hopes it did.
“The [pharmacy technician] profession is ready to support and enhance patient care,” said Fidler.
“Including pharmacy technicians on the PGD list will enable a range of services to be delivered in response to COVID-19 and beyond.
“It will be a missed opportunity for pharmacy services and patient care if pharmacy technicians are not included.”
She added that “the time is now” to enable accredited training and governance processes to be embedded for immunisation campaigns.
Sandra Gidley, president of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, said: “While we welcome these comments, community pharmacies already provide NHS flu vaccinations in England and Wales, and we have consistently stressed their potential to provide further patient access to other vaccines.”
“Any future decision of implementing a COVID-19 vaccination must be made using the clinical expertise, knowledge and accessibility of community pharmacists. Our profession can help to reduce the demand for vaccine services elsewhere in the NHS, especially during the pandemic,” she added.
Hancock reiterated that priority for the COVID-19 vaccine would be for the “most clinically vulnerable, the oldest and also healthcare workers.”
“That’s the principle set out by the independent committee who oversees these things,” he added.
Further details of the policy to expand the workforce that are able to administer vaccinations, as mentioned by Hancock, are still in development.