Pharmacy team first in the UK to prepare vaccination for COVID-19

The largest vaccine campaign in NHS history has begun, with staff at University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire trust administering the first dose.

COVID-19 vaccine preparation

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Pharmacy and nursing staff at University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire trust prepared the first use of the Pfizer BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine outside of clinical trials

The pharmacy team at University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire (UHCW) trust has become the first in the UK to draw up a COVID-19 vaccine for clinical use.

Margaret Keenan, aged 90, was the first person to receive the vaccine, manufactured by Pfizer and BioNTech, at the launch of the largest vaccine campaign in NHS history on 8 December 2020.

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency approved the vaccine for use on 2 December 2020, with NHS trusts being the first providers to carry out its administration.

As part of the delivery of vaccines through ‘hospital hubs’ and NHS trust-led vaccination centres, hospital pharmacists have been put in charge of “ensuring the safe handling and use of the vaccines”.

A letter from Keith Ridge, the chief pharmaceutical officer for England, described the final dilution of the vaccine as “a skilled operation”, with the skills required “normally found amongst pharmacy professionals”.

According to the standard operating procedure for preparing the vaccines, published by the Specialist Pharmacy Service, the vaccine vials must be diluted within two hours of removal from the refrigerator, and then used within six hours.

Preparing the vaccine can either be undertaken by “one person performing dilution, who passes the diluted vial to a vaccinator to draw up individual doses into syringes” or by “one person both diluting the vial and drawing up individual doses into syringes and passing the syringe to the vaccinator”.

However, the responsible pharmacist “must ensure that appropriate and formal authorisation for vaccine administration is in place”.

Simon Stevens, NHS England chief executive, said: “Less than a year after the first case of this new disease was diagnosed, the NHS has now delivered the first clinically approved COVID-19 vaccination – that is a remarkable achievement.”

Last updated
The Pharmaceutical Journal, PJ December 2020, Vol 305, No 7944;305(7944):DOI:10.1211/PJ.2020.20208642

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