Almost two-thirds (62%) of Covid-19 vaccines were administered in community pharmacies in December 2023, according to the Company Chemists’ Association (CCA).

The CCA’s analysis, based on data from NHS England and Freedom of Information requests, found that community pharmacy had administered more than 40 million Covid-19 vaccinations by the end of 2023 – a quarter (24.85%) of all Covid-19 vaccines to date.

The CCA said the data reaffirmed pharmacy’s ‘growing role’ in the Covid-19 vaccination programme, and urged policymakers to ensure the programme was designed with the needs of pharmacy businesses in mind.

For example, by integrating the national booking system into existing pharmacy systems; reviewing the fee in light of increasing costs; and simplifying the site designation process.

CCA modelling suggests that pharmacies could administer a further 10 million vaccination appointments per year.

The organisation put forward that, following the success of community pharmacy’s delivery of Covid-19 and flu vaccine programmes, ‘now is the time to explore a bigger role for community pharmacy in vaccines’, which it said would improve patient access and coverage rates.

The news comes in the wake of NHS England’s decision to extend the national enhanced service for the Covid-19 vaccination programme until 31 August 2024 and confirmation of eligibility for the spring Covid-19 booster programme.

Malcolm Harrison, chief executive of the CCA, said: ‘Administering over 40 million Covid-19 vaccines, a quarter of all vaccines to date, is a truly fantastic achievement by the sector. This is despite community pharmacy initially not being considered a major part of the programme.

‘This is further evidence of the track record pharmacies have in administering national vaccination programmes. Community pharmacy is well versed in driving uptake rates and building confidence in vaccinations.’

He added: ‘It’s clear that community pharmacy can, in time, become the natural home for all vaccinations.

‘Now is the time for policymakers to explore this enhanced role and build on the recently published NHS Vaccination Strategy.’

The Comirnaty (Pfizer-BioNTech) Covid vaccine will be available to pharmacies to offer privately as of next month.

Pharmacy services provider Pharmadoctor revealed earlier this month that the 150 independent pharmacies using its Covid vaccination package had received more than 1,000 bookings. And some individual pharmacies had received more than 80 appointment bookings for Covid vaccinations, Pharmadoctor chief executive Graham Thoms told The Pharmacist.

Other pharmacies, including multiples Boots and Superdrug, have also said that they are exploring making private Covid vaccinations available to people outside the NHS-eligible cohort.