Community pharmacy-led vaccination sites will be the “primary delivery model” for administering COVID-19 vaccines to children aged 5–11 years, NHS England has said.
In a letter to all vaccination sites, dated 18 February 2022, NHS England set out its plans for offering COVID-19 vaccines to young children, following government advice to offer all children aged 5–11 years 2 x 10 microgram doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech (Comirnaty) vaccine.
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) advised offering the two doses 12 weeks apart but, in a statement published on 16 February 2022, it described the offer as “non-urgent”, with vaccinations in this cohort planned to start from April 2022.
It added that the cohort covers “around 5 million young children”.
NHS England said in its letter that community pharmacy-led vaccination sites “should be the primary delivery models for this cohort”.
However, sites will need to complete a self-assessment checklist, which includes requirements for vaccinators to have enhanced DBS checking and experience in vaccinating children aged under 18 years.
“Sites will also need to undertake a pharmaceutical assurance process before they can use Comirnaty 10 microgram/dose,” the letter said.
“Only sites with staff trained to the appropriate standards with the relevant competencies will be able to vaccinate this group.”
It added that primary care network vaccination sites “are not expected to be the primary delivery model for this part of the programme given the need to reconfigure sites to create an age-appropriate offer for 5- to 11-year-olds, current capacity in the programme, and the ongoing workload for general practice”.
Under NHS England advice, vaccination sites for this group “should be as child-friendly as possible”, with consideration given to child safety and infection prevention and control
“Vaccinations should be provided out of normal school operating hours and accessible to 5- to 11-year-olds. Community pharmacy-led sites and vaccination centres should explore satellite sites where current coverage cannot offer sufficient suitable or accessible capacity for younger children,” the letter continued.
“We will be confirming the contractual arrangements for vaccinating this cohort shortly.”
Leyla Hannbeck, chief executive of the Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies, said that the COVID-19 vaccination service “should be the domain of community pharmacy going forward”.
“We are confident that with the right support and our input to make sure that the patient group directive is correctly written, our members can deliver the vaccination service to the 5-11-year-old cohort,” she said.
“We ask the decision-makers, however, to ensure the process is as red-tape free as possible and that sufficient support is provided to pharmacies to ensure smooth delivery of this service.”