NHS England (NHSE) is launching 12 ‘demonstrator sites’ to test ‘new and innovative’ models of vaccination delivery, it has said.

Slides from a webinar aimed at general practitioners last week revealed that the sites would be launched in March, and would explore ‘how more flexible approaches to ICB [Integrated Care Board] commissioning can enable ways of improving uptake’.

NHSE said that the pilot would include the use of health visitors to perform catch-up vaccinations with children, running measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) pop-up clinics in university spaces, and increasing uptake among people with complex needs, such as learning disabilities.

Covid and flu specifications will also be aligned in order to ‘better enable co-administration’, increase efficiency, and enable integrated care systems (ICSs) ‘to focus on un- or under-vaccinated groups’, the slides also revealed.

This follows the launch of NHSE’s vaccination strategy at the end of last year, which promised to explore whether central procurement of adult flu vaccines would be cost-effective.

NHSE has also committed to pursue legislative change ‘that could enable the safe movement of vaccines across providers where appropriate and thereby support collaboration across a system’.

Tase Oputu chair of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) in England, told The Pharmacist today that it was ‘encouraging to see efforts being made to explore more flexible approaches to vaccinations’.

‘These strategies have the potential to reach underserved populations and improve overall vaccination coverage,’ she added.

She highlighted the ‘crucial’ role that community pharmacies play in increasing access to vaccinations and promoting public health.

‘With their widespread presence and accessibility, pharmacies are well-positioned to provide convenient vaccination services to communities across the country, particularly in deprived areas,’ Ms Oputu said.

Malcolm Harrison, chief executive of the Company Chemists’ Association (CCA), also welcomed the move by NHSE to test new models of vaccination delivery.

‘Community pharmacy has an excellent track record in delivering the flu and Covid-19 vaccines, as well as in building confidence in, and uptake of vaccines, especially among underserved communities,’ he said.

The CCA estimates that community pharmacies could administer 10 million more vaccination appointments each year than they do currently.

‘In time, we believe that community pharmacy can be the natural home for all vaccinations – increasing patient access and enhancing vaccine coverage rates,’ Mr Harrison told The Pharmacist.

The National Pharmacy Association (NPA) has also previously called for an expansion of pharmacy-based vaccination services and suggested that they could play a role in delivering childhood vaccinations.

NPA director of corporate affairs, Gareth Jones, told The Pharmacist: ‘Pharmacies have proven themselves in relation to covid vaccinations, flu vaccinations and several other areas like hepatitis and travel health.

‘The pharmacy network is an obvious place to start increasing choice of provider for childhood vaccinations too.

‘We now have a proven track record in the public health sphere and offer unparalleled access.’