Both large and small community pharmacies will be used to support primary care networks (PCNs) in the rollout of the Covid-19 vaccination programme, the Government has confirmed.

This comes as part of the UK Covid-19 vaccines delivery plan, which was published today ( 11 January) and details how the Government plans to immunise ‘tens of millions of people by the spring’.

According to the plans, 'at least’ two million people will be vaccinated per week by the end of January.

The Government said it will achieve this goal by using 206 active hospital sites, 50 vaccination centres and 1,200 local vaccination sites, which include PCNs and community pharmacies.

The local vaccination sites ‘mobilise general practice’ and work together in groups of PCNs ‘plus large and small community pharmacy sites’, the document said.

‘These services provide the largest number of locations and are well placed to support our highest risk individuals, many of whom already have a trusted relationship with their local health services,’ it added.

Community pharmacy involvement

NHS England confirmed to the Pharmacist last week (7 January) that it is currently assessing the 200 sites, some of which will begin delivering the Oxford vaccine from this week.

It had previously said that only a limited number of community pharmacy sites would be commissioned as designated vaccination sites due to most contractors being unlikely to be able to meet the necessary requirements.

The Government’s Covid-19 vaccine delivery plan today said: ‘Community pharmacy sites will start to deliver vaccines from mid-January, offering bookings through the National Booking Service. This will help improve access through primary care to as many of the population as possible.

'The early community pharmacy sites will be able to offer significant numbers of appointments. Community pharmacies are integral parts of local communities and will be accessible and approachable places from which to deliver vaccination.’

Completing vaccinations by autumn

The Government has also pledged that by the end of January ‘everyone in England will be within 10 miles of a vaccination site’ and by the end of autumn 2021 ‘every adult in England’ will be immunised.’

‘The growing network of vaccination sites will rapidly expand in the weeks and months ahead,’ the document said.

It added that people in a small number of very rural areas of the country will have the Covid-19 vaccine brought to them via a ‘mobile unit’.

Last week, the Government faced widespread calls from the sector to involve all community pharmacies in the vaccination programme.

'Significant opportunity'

Commenting on the new plans, Matt Hancock, health and social care secretary said: ‘It’s taken a tremendous amount of hard work and dedication to making such an incredible start to this ambitious deployment programme. Our vaccine deployment plan sets out exactly how we will harness these efforts to expand the programme quickly and safely.

‘Our UK Covid-19 vaccines delivery plan maps our route back to normality, but it does not mean we can be complacent and it is mission-critical that everybody abides by the restrictions in the coming weeks.'

He added: ‘The next few months will present a significant opportunity to turn the tide of battle against Covid – I am looking forward to watching these plans bring more reassurance and hope back to people’s lives after a difficult year.’