Opinion: Why community pharmacies should be included in the Covid vaccine rollout

The Government should engage with local pharmacies over the vaccine rollout, writes Dr Leyla Hannbeck, pharmacist and chief executive of the Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies

Community pharmacies are part of the very fabric of people’s lives. Friendly, helpful, accessible – just some of the words we would use to describe local pharmacies. Other descriptors include reliable, caring healthcare professionals, within the hearts of your communities.

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Pharmacies consistently enjoy visits by 1.6 million people each day. Each of those interventions – in addition to supplying essential medicines – has the unique ability to shape and change the lives and fortunes of existing patients and the wider public. Did you know that 90% of people in England are within 20 minutes walking distance of a local pharmacy? It’s 99% for those in more deprived areas. Statistics such as these illustrate why community pharmacists are increasingly trusted to pursue even more patient-facing roles.

For several years community pharmacies have offered a national service to vaccinate against the influenza virus. Pharmacists and their teams are trained not just in vital vaccination techniques but in the potentially life-saving measures to counter adverse incidents such as anaphylaxis – serious allergic reactions. Our IT structures are firmly integrated within a well recognised accredited platform to transfer patient data in real time to doctors and commissioners.

With England now under a national lockdown, accessing a convenient, nearby vaccination point is now more pivotal than ever. What is more, patient feedback continuously suggests a resounding endorsement of their experience with the pharmacy-led National Flu Vaccination Service. It makes no sense to ignore this precious national asset offered by local pharmacies. It should be a no-brainer.

So, what do we want? We want to see High Street pharmacies be given the opportunity to administer the Covid-19 vaccine to the pharmacies they serve. We believe that patients have the confidence and desire to receive their jab within the professional and regulated surroundings of their local pharmacy. Not all of the nation’s pharmacies will be able to offer the vaccine – but many of them will.

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One thing is for sure – patients will enjoy an accessible, local and efficient service if they are able to get vaccinated at their pharmacy of choice. Community pharmacies have already this season vaccinated a resounding 2 million patients against the flu.

We want to ensure that at this moment of national crisis the Government does not ignore what is a national institution of health experts, right under our noses and accessible without an appointment.

We want to ensure the Government capitalises on this accessibility, convenience and experience pharmacists provide by offering an open door policy to patients to use the pharmacy of their choice. We ask the Government to engage with us. We want to help – let us.

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