Matt Robinson, pharmacist manager at Kamsons Pharmacy in Victoria Medical Centre, Eastbourne, talks to Saša Janković about running a private chickenpox vaccination service.

Service type: Private chickenpox vaccinations

Name and location of pharmacy: Kamsons Pharmacy, Victoria Medical Centre, Eastbourne

Name of pharmacist: Matt Robinson

Why did you start offering this service?

This service began in August 2021. We offer a range of private paid-for vaccinations, and the chickenpox vaccination is by far the most popular one that we do. There are lots of working families in our area – and lots of nurseries and primary schools – so incidences of chickenpox cases are really high and we see tens of cases every week. People can’t afford to take time off work to look after their children when they have chickenpox, so we are doing multiple vaccinations for this every month.

We also offer the shingles vaccine which has proven popular with our older patients who are not quite old enough to get it for free yet from their GP but are willing to pay for it privately.

How much did it cost to set up the service?

There wasn’t really any extra cost to us to set up the service as our pharmacists are trained to do vaccinations and we can buy the vaccine in singles doses so it’s not too expensive.

What, if any, training did you or other team members have to undergo? Kamsons organised a training which went through how to offer the vaccination via an SOP written by the company under the direction of our pharmacist independent prescribers. Depending on the age of the patient, you need to mix some of the vaccines and it’s a bit more intricate than prefilled flu injections, so the training was about understanding the vaccines rather than just giving a jab.

In a nutshell, what does the service involve?

We don’t do walk-ins for this so people book on our website, enter their details, and our prescriber writes the prescription to send to the pharmacy of the patient’s choice.

We offer chickenpox vaccinations for children over 12 months old, and once they get to 12 years old the dosage changes. Children under 12 months can have the vaccination but we don’t do this age group as this has to be done under specialist care. When the oldest child in the family starts school the parents tend to bring all the children in for the vaccination.

However, we don't just vaccinate children. We saw a lady in her 30s the other week who’d never had chickenpox and was looking to get pregnant, but as it’s a live vaccine you have to wait for a period of time after having the vaccine if you are planning to conceive. She didn’t want to get pregnant and then get chickenpox, or get it at the same time as her baby as she’d could be really poorly and unable to look after the baby, so she thought it was a good idea to plan ahead and get herself vaccinated.

Are there any opportunities to sell OTC or prescription products during or after the consultation?

We do run though a consultation with the parents – or the patient – to check for illnesses, allergies, and look at any medication they are on so if things come up we can look at other issues they are having. After the vaccination it can be useful to take paracetamol or Calpol, so we can recommend that as well.

How have patients responded to the service?

Brilliantly. Before we started the service I didn’t quite know what to expect and hoped there was a need for it but it turns out the uptake has been quite high so it was definitely a good decision

Roughly how often each month do you carry out the service?

We see about 15-16 people a month.

How much do you charge for the service?

Chickenpox vaccines are £69.50 a dose and it is a two-dose course.

Would you recommend offering this service to other contractors?

Yes definitely. The ability to offer the whole array of travel vaccines is helpful for patients and good for business, especially as a lot of GP surgeries aren’t doing these at all – plus once you are in the consultation room sitting with patients they open up and tell you other things, so it’s great for relationship building in your community. People are becoming much more accepting of being vaccinated against more illnesses and chickenpox is a good example of that. Gone are the days of chickenpox parties – people’s attitude now it more along the lines of let’s not have it in the first place.

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