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Community pharmacies running COVID-19 vaccination sites could be commissioned to provide temporary clinics in places of worship to reach “communities with lower uptake levels”.
In two letters sent to community pharmacy vaccination sites on 24 February 2021, NHS England said the move was part of wider plans for clinical commissioning groups “to address vaccine inequalities”.
One letter — sent on 24 February 2021 — noted that, according to initial data: “Black African communities have the highest hesitancy compared to other ethnic groups,” while patients from Pakistani and Bangladeshi communities “have higher hesitancy than White British/Irish and Indian communities”.
As a result, NHS England laid out plans to “set up temporary vaccination clinics in community settings, including places of worship”, creating “a tailored offer to communities that improves take-up”.
A subsequent letter informed community pharmacy vaccination sites that local commissioners “may commission the temporary vaccination clinic under the terms of the [local enhanced service] agreement”.
“It is critical that nobody is left behind, and we are writing to make you aware of some further opportunities to reach out to communities with lower uptake levels by operating temporary vaccination clinics in community venues,” the letter said.
“In particular, a large number of places of worship have expressed an interest in supporting the COVID-19 vaccination programme.”
NHS England will provide pharmacies commissioned to deliver vaccination services at these sites with a “definition of the population who will be invited” and “confirmation of any other providers who will be vaccinating at the venue”.
The letter noted that venue capacity “and preferred local arrangements will guide whether multiple providers can use the space at the same time, but this is unlikely to be advisable”.
Pharmacies will be expected to transport their own “AstraZeneca (Oxford) vaccine and associated consumables to the clinic”, with second dose clinics set up in the same location within the required timeframe.
The Al-Abbas Islamic Centre in Birmingham was the first mosque to open as a vaccination centre on 21 January 2021, with the site’s lead pharmacist declaring it a success in its campaign against vaccine hesitancy among the local black, Asian and minority ethnic community.
Speaking to The Pharmaceutical Journal on 24 February 2021, Murtaza Masters, director of the Masters Group chain of pharmacies, which runs the centre, said it continues to work “really well”, with local GPs now including the mosque in a list of options where patients can book their appointment.