The Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) is calling for additional flexibilities from government bodies for contractors to provide flu vaccinations in off-provision sites during the 2020/2021 flu season.
The negotiator announced in a briefing sent to community pharmacy contractors earlier this month that it was looking at finding alternative ways for the healthcare professionals to administer the vaccine in light of Covid-19 pressures.
The body predicts a high demand for vaccination as well as a reduced capacity within pharmacy as a result of social distancing requirements.
Current rules for social distancing mean that a pharmacy consultation room may not be suitable places to vaccinate people. PSNC has suggested to NHSE&I and DHSC that pharmacies be allowed to perform vaccinations on the shop floor, which ‘supports better social distancing and it can be undertaken in a way which maintains patient safety and confidentiality.’
To further manage patient flow, the body suggested that pharmacies be given off-site provisions to administer vaccinations, so that the pharmacy itself can ‘continue to provide normal pharmacy services and operations’.
The sites could include: marquees outside the pharmacy premises; local village, town or community halls; church halls, temples or mosques; car parks including the options of drive-thru services similar to Covid-19 testing services, and sports stadiums.
PSNC added that it was also suggesting to NHSE that pharmacists be allowed to vaccinate care home staff in care homes, as opposed to pharmacies.
As it stands, pharmacists are currently able to vaccinate care home residents in care homes after their GP and the local NHS England team have been notified. However, care home staff are expected to make their own flu vaccination arrangements.
The Seasonal Influenza Vaccination Advanced Service, provided by pharmacists, is expected to cover those patients most at risk from influenza aged 18 years and older.
The Department of Health has not confirmed a widespread flu immunisation programme. However, last month it sent a letter to community pharmacies and general practices in England to say the government considerations for expanding the eligibility criteria for NHS-funded flu vaccinations were ‘underway’.
Currently, those who qualify for the NHS-funded flu vaccine include all children between 2 to 10 years old, those in clinically at risk groups between the ages of 6 months and 65 years, pregnant women, people living in care homes, and all health and social care staff.
Last month, the Pharmacist reported that pharmaceutical manufacturers may not be able to meet all increased demand for flu vaccines this year, during an unprecedented demand for the vaccine worldwide.
Pharmacists in New Zealand, who are already in their winter season, have noted an upsurge in demand for flu vaccination. ‘We’ve been administering three times the number of flu vaccines we usually give out; the demand is so high,’ said Ian McMichael, president of the Pharmaceutical Society of New Zealand (PSNZ).
A nationwide campaign in the country has been run to encourage as many people as possible to get vaccinated against seasonal flu. The high demand for the vaccine had been causing some supply issues, Mr McMichael told the Pharmacist in May.