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More than 1.7 million COVID-19 vaccines have been administered so far at community pharmacy-led vaccination sites in England, NHS England has said.
This comes ahead of a significant reduction in supplies of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, with NHS England anticipating that some sites “will need to stand down for some of April ”.
In an NHS England webinar on 22 March 2021, Alison Henley-Jones, deputy director of community pharmacy at NHS England, thanked pharmacy teams for their work on the vaccination programme.
“Community pharmacy has now delivered over 1.7m of the vaccines done so far, and I can see just how busy everybody has been over the last week and in the week to come,” she said.
As of 22 March 2021, 25.8 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered across England.
During the webinar, Henley-Jones set out how pharmacy-led sites can manage vaccine supply for April 2021, following a letter sent on 17 March 2021 that announced an expected reduction in supplies of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine.
The letter asked community pharmacy sites to “ensure no further appointments are uploaded to the National Booking System or Local Booking Systems from 1 to 30 April ”.
As a result, Henley-Jones said the appointment calendars had been locked for pharmacy sites.
But she added that NHS England is working with regional teams to allow pharmacy sites to “ensure there are second dose slots available for anybody who hasn’t booked a second dose slot yet, [and] to add appointments if you might need to for any stock that you’re carrying that you won’t use” in the last week of March.
“It is likely that we’ll be able to open some calendars gradually over the next few days to help you sort those things out,” she said.
Henley-Jones added that some pharmacy-led sites in areas with low uptake from patients in cohorts 1 to 9 will receive “low levels” of vaccine supplies to cover first doses in the week commencing 29 March or 5 April 2021.
“We do anticipate there being some sites who will need to stand down for some of April ,” she said, but added that second dose supplies “are not impacted”.
Are community pharmacies administering COVID-19 vaccinations in the devolved nations?
The involvement of community pharmacy in the COVID-19 vaccination programmes in Scotland and Wales has been slower than in England.
In both countries, community pharmacies are expected to enter into local arrangements with their health boards to provide COVID-19 vaccinations.
In Scotland, nearly 30 community pharmacies expressed interest in administering COVID-19 vaccines in NHS Highland in northern Scotland, but the board has said there is “no timescale” for them to begin work.
In Wales, four community pharmacies — located in Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board — are able to provide COVID-19 vaccinations.
However, five of the seven health boards in Wales confirmed to The Pharmaceutical Journal in February 2021 that they had received expressions of interest from community pharmacies to participate in the national vaccination programme.