Pharmacists providing a vaccination advice scheme in East London have vaccinated more than 800 people against COVID-19, following individual conversations with patients.
A total of 12 pharmacies across the borough of Tower Hamlets took part in the scheme, which launched in June 2022, where local residents could speak to pharmacists by phone, face to-face or by video call, to raise any concerns and ask questions about COVID-19 vaccination.
Pharmacists addressed their worries, dispelled myths and talked about the importance of the vaccine. Patients were not pressured to take the vaccine straight away, and people were able to think about their decision before coming back to be vaccinated if they decided to go ahead.
Shilpa Shah, chief executive officer at North East London Local Pharmaceutical Committee, was instrumental in setting up the scheme, which was commissioned with funding from the local authority’s public health team.
“It’s an opportunistic service, which is much needed in an area like [Tower Hamlets] and so many other areas as we are seeing vaccination fatigue and the numbers of COVID are rising, putting pressure on the NHS,” she said.
“We know that local communities trust their pharmacists and their teams, who are often from the same communities. They have a good understanding of their culture and language, and why they may be worried about having a vaccine. The pharmacist can then provide factual information, allowing the patient to make an informed decision about whether they then have a vaccine or not.”
The most recently available figures show that pharmacies on the scheme provided 1,834 consultations by the end of November 2022, with 831 (45%) of people who took part deciding to get vaccinated after the consultation.
The scheme began in June 2022, and was due to finish at the end of January 2023, but Shah said she hoped it would be extended in the light of current pressures from COVID-19 and flu.
At the participating Greenlight pharmacy in Bromley-By-Bow, pharmacist Natalia Fecsuova said she approached people when they were collecting medicines to see if they had been vaccinated. She then offered to talk to them if they had not and were interested.
Several people expressed concerns, after having side effects with previous vaccines, she said.
“With people who had traditional cold and flu side effects, you can explain how the vaccine works and that it’s the body reacting and they see that makes sense,” she said.
Fecsuova said she was happy to be taking part in the service. “It’s really good for the pharmacy to be involved in education. The majority of people from the community would seek medical advice from the pharmacy so it is the most appropriate setting.”