Smaller high street and neighbourhood community pharmacies should not be ‘underestimated’ and left out of the Covid vaccination programme, the Pharmacists’ Defence Association (PDA) has said.

Last month, the PDA launched its ‘A Thousand Little Ships’ campaign, which proposes ways to maximise the NHS’ capacity to deliver vaccinations.

On Wednesday (3 February), the PDA urged the Government and the NHS to integrate all 13,500 community pharmacies into the vaccination programme so that the system is ready and capable to vaccinate more people as more groups are prioritised for vaccination.

The body said: ‘While some larger pharmacies can provide a very high volume of vaccines to the public and are included in the current programme, the PDA say that the contribution of smaller high street and neighbourhood pharmacies should not be underestimated.’

By ‘repurposing of workforce and physical spaces’ the NHS has a greater chance of meeting the ‘challenging deadline of all priority groups being vaccinated by mid-February’, it added.

So far, more than 10 million people have received their first Covid-19 vaccination as part of the national programme.

‘Choice and convenience’

According to NHS England, 192 of the 200 community pharmacy-led sites it commissioned have gone live.

Only pharmacy-led sites with the capacity to deliver 1,000 vaccines per week have been commissioned as designated vaccination site, therefore leaving a number of contractors unable to meet the necessary requirements.

The PDA added: ‘The combined contribution of many smaller pharmacies could be highly effective as well as providing choice and convenience of where they [people] receive their vaccination.’

Mark Koziol, chairman of the PDA, said: ‘In a matter of weeks the programme will need to give the critical second doses of the vaccine while continuing to provide first doses to millions more who have yet to have one.

‘Unless capacity is significantly increased this could slow down progress, but by enabling large numbers of smaller community pharmacies to provide second doses, the public could get their vaccinations sooner.’

Last week, some pharmacy-led vaccination sites in London reported that they had received just a quarter of the daily Covid-19 vaccine bookings they were told to expect, with some receiving just less than 50 bookings per day.

Health secretary Matt Hancock has promised to ‘look into’ confusion around the booking systems for Covid jabs after a Labour MP highlighted the issue in parliament on Tuesday (2 February).