An additional 55 independent pharmacies are due to join the Covid-19 vaccination programme this week and ‘early next week’, NHS England and Improvement (NHSE&I) has said.
Among those going live are Retrolink Pharmacy and Jardines Pharmacy, both in Bedfordshire, as the programme expands ‘into areas not yet covered by a vaccination site,’ NHSE&I said.
Lincoln Pharmacy in Tower Hamlets is another of the new sites and is expected to play a ‘major role’ in vaccinating groups shown to be at higher risk of mortality from coronavirus, it added.
A tennis and cricket club site run by Wilbraham Pharmacy in Manchester – and pop-up pharmacy sites operated by Pharmacy2U – will also start administering vaccinations to eligible groups.
This comes as the first six pharmacy-led sites – which included four independents – began vaccinating last week (14 January).
NHS England has so far lined up 200 pharmacy-led sites, all of which are due to come online by the end of the month as more vaccine supplies ‘come on stream’.
‘Power of coming together’
Olivier Picard, owner of Newdays Pharmacy, is opening a vaccination site in Marlow, Buckinghamshire. He said he is participating ‘to help kick Covid into touch’.
‘By offering more choice in a convenient location, we’ll be making a big contribution locally. As soon as bookings were enabled through the National Booking System we quickly became fully subscribed, so there’s no doubt that people trust pharmacists to protect them,’ he said.
‘It’s a daunting prospect, but perfectly do-able, and we’re proud to be taking part in this vital programme.’
Meanwhile, Raj Patel, owner of Hollowood Chemists in the North West of England, has set up three vaccination sites in ‘a matter of weeks’, which he said has only been possible with the ‘active support’ of the local communities, councils and business owners his pharmacies serve.
He added: ‘Everyone has stepped up to plate and it’s shown the power of coming together in the common good, as well as the responsiveness of community pharmacists.’
Andrew Lane, chair of the National Pharmacy Association (NPA), said the latest pharmacy sites represented a ‘significant expansion’ but pharmacies can ‘ultimately go a lot further to protect the population’.
‘England’s network of 11,500 community pharmacies is a formidable asset in our collective response to the Covid-19 pandemic. They are collectively capable of protecting millions of people if given the chance,’ he said.
‘I believe pharmacists are going to be sprinters and marathon runners in the race to vaccinate the whole adult population by the autumn and then keep people protected into the future.’
‘A proud day’
Claire Anderson, chair of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society’s (RPS) English Pharmacy Board said it was a ‘proud day’ as ‘more and more pharmacists help ramp up the NHS vaccination programme by providing sites where local people can get their Covid-19 vaccine’.
‘It’s fantastic and inspiring to see the speedy progress made due to the clinical skills of pharmacists,’ she said.
‘The professionalism of pharmacists across the hospital and GP practice community sites who have stepped up to the challenge has been extraordinary. A huge amount of behind-the-scenes work has been done by colleagues across all sectors to make all the sites successful.’
Leyla Hannbeck, chief executive of the Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies (AIMp), said she was was ‘delighted’ to see more pharmacy-led sites commissioned but said there were ‘many more’ who are ‘determined and willing to play their part’.
She said: ‘With the help of the British media and the British public we have successfully highlighted that our sector is here to help accelerate this programme so a big thank you to those who have helped pharmacy’s cause.
‘The Government has unequivocally signified that in this space we will utilise the pharmacy network. We are committed to working with the Government and NHS England colleagues to make this a reality soon.’