Community pharmacies have provided more than two million Covid vaccines in England so far in 2023 – representing almost half (46%) of all Covid vaccinations administered this year.

The analysis by the Company Chemists’ Association (CCA), also show that to date, community pharmacies have provided almost a quarter (24%) of all Covid vaccinations in England since the programme began in 2020.

This autumn has seen a new approach adopted by NHS England that allows any pharmacy to provide Covid vaccines.

The Covid vaccination programme had been due to begin in October but was changed to September. The start of the flu vaccination campaign also underwent several changes.

Speaking to The Pharmacist earlier in the month, Dr Leyla Hannbeck, chief executive of the Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies (AIMp) said the start of this year’s  vaccination programme had been ‘chaotic’ but ‘despite this, pharmacy teams are doing their best to deliver the service as they always do’.

Malcolm Harrison, chief executive of the CCA, described community pharmacy as the ‘anchor’ of the Covid vaccination programme.

‘This year alone, community pharmacy has provided nearly half of all Covid vaccines and stands ready to help turbo-charge the rollout during this winter period.’

Though he stressed that ‘core funding remains a major issue’ and that ‘pharmacies nationwide face a “postcode lottery” of bureaucracy which is stifling their involvement in the vaccination programme’.

Mr Harrison added: ‘Although we experienced a lot of toing and froing concerning this year’s vaccination programmes, which consequently placed the sector in a precarious state, our members will continue to strive and deliver for patients and the public.’

The CCA said ‘several practical changes’ were needed to make the vaccination programme ‘simpler for patients and pharmacies’.

For example, it said it wanted to see ‘a reduction and greater standardisation of bureaucracy so pharmacies can come online quicker’.

Also commenting on the CCA’s analysis, which is based on data from NHS England and Freedom of Information requests, Preet Kaur, shadow minister for primary care and prevention, paid tribute to the role played by community pharmacists in the vaccination programme and ‘taking the pressure off overstretched GPs’.

She added: ‘It is high time for us to realise the potential of community pharmacies.’