Six of the seven Welsh Health Boards have now invited pharmacies to submit expressions of interest in delivering Covid vaccinations, Community Pharmacy Wales (CPW) has said.
It comes after CPW wrote to Wales’ health minister last week (14 January) expressing concern that only one of the Health Boards – Hywel Dda – had so far reached out to pharmacies.
As of today (19 January), Aneurin Bevan, Cardiff & Vale University, Cwm Taf Morgannwg, Betsi Cadwaladr University, and Powys Teaching Health Boards have also sent requests to community pharmacies over the last few days, according to CPW.
Swansea Bay UHB is the remaining Health Board yet to take this ‘vital action’, CPW said on Twitter.
The Pharmacist has approached Swansea Bay Health Board for comment.
‘Speed up pharmacy involvement’
According to CPW, approximately 20 pharmacies in Hywel Dda responded to the expression of interest in December, however, none of these have been commissioned yet.
On Friday (15 January), the first Welsh pharmacy administered the Covid jab as part of a pilot, which has begun in pharmacies in the Betsi Cadwaladr Health Board.
However, CPW said in its statement that ‘everything needs to be sped up’.
The letter said that all community pharmacies who currently deliver the flu vaccine – of which there are over 600 – should be ‘immediately’ invited to participate in the programme and that ‘absolutely no community pharmacy that shows interest should be turned down’.
‘If all these were doing, for example, just 10 Covid-19 vaccinations a day then it would equate to more than 6000 additional vaccines per day being delivered in a convenient and accessible setting,’ CPW said.
During a press briefing on Friday, Wales’ first minister Mark Drakeford said that not all pharmacies will be commissioned to deliver the vaccine due to the logistics surrounding the size of many pharmacies.
He added that some community pharmacists could instead be asked to administer vaccinations at mass vaccination centres – in cases where pharmacies are too small to store the correct number of vaccines and allow for social distancing.
So far, 161,932 people in Wales have received a first dose of the vaccine, according to Public Health Wales.
The vaccine rollout plan said that ‘every dose’ of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine allocated to Wales is being delivered directly to GPs, pharmacies and hospitals ‘as soon as it is available’.
The document added: ‘To date, we have received relatively small volumes. We know many GPs and others are ready and able to use as much of this vaccine as can be supplied by the UK Government.’
Elen Jones, Royal Pharmaceutical Society’s (RPS) director for Wales, said Welsh pharmacists are playing a ‘crucial role’ in the vaccination programme, but stressed the ‘critical’ importance of ‘resolving any logistical challenges at national and local levels’.
‘We are already encouraged that the Welsh Government has established an IT solution to support community pharmacy’s role in the vaccination programme,’ she said.
She added: ‘Many [pharmacists] have already been administering vaccines in dedicated vaccination centres and in GP settings, and we are confident that community pharmacy will offer new opportunities for accelerating the delivery of the programme.
‘Success will, of course, be subject to sufficient supplies of the vaccine as well as robust local planning and commissioning over the coming weeks.’