Open access article
The Royal Pharmaceutical Society has made this article free to access in order to help healthcare professionals stay informed about an issue of national importance.
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A team of community pharmacists in South Tyneside will administer COVID-19 vaccinations to housebound patients over four weekends from 23 January 2021.
Some 22 community pharmacists are expected to vaccinate around 1,500 patients registered as housebound with their GP practice as part of the initiative.
This follows the announcement that a further 65 community pharmacy-led vaccination sites— 55 of which are led by independent pharmacies — are set to begin administering COVID-19 vaccines over the coming week.
Louise Lydon, a pharmacist based in Jarrow, said that while community pharmacies are currently very busy, “we can reach hundreds of people in a weekend without affecting our main service”.
The original idea rose from discussion between GPs, South Tyneside Clinical Commissioning Group and the local council, Lydon said, adding that it was “an honour to be involved in something so life-changing”.
“We’re really excited to get started,” she said. “Patients will get a phone call to notify them three or four days before their jab. The pharmacists will arrive wearing NHS ID and will be happy to help if you have questions.”
As part of the project, vaccines will also be offered to carers who, because of their caring responsibilities, find it difficult to make time to attend a designated vaccination centre or pharmacy.
Anji Curry, a GP in South Shields, said that in South Tyneside “our community pharmacists are very closely integrated with local practices, so they are well placed to play such a key role and reduce some of the pressure on other parts of our health system”.
The vaccinations of housebound patients will take place across Hebburn, Jarrow, South Shields, Cleadon, Boldon and Whitburn using the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine.
On 14 January 2021, NHS England published guidance around the use of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine to vaccinate housebound patients.
The guidance notes that there are “no concerns from a movement stability perspective of transporting the AZ Covid-19 vaccine from house to house to support vaccination of housebound patients”.
However, once the vaccine vial is punctured, it must be used within six hours and kept at a temperature between 2°C and 25°C during this time.
Vaccinators will also need to follow specific infection control measures, such as decontaminating “the vial and secondary packaging using an alcohol wipe rather than a detergent wipe before putting it back into the vaccine porter (bag used to carry the vaccine) for onward transport in view of the unknown risk from other infectious pathogens within the environment in the home”.
As of 21 January 2021, almost 5 million people in the UK had received their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.