Community pharmacy teams administering vaccinations this year do not need to use single use personal protective equipment (PPE), according to new guidance from Public Health England (PHE).

The guidance, published last week (Friday 21 August), said that using single-use PPE items including gloves and aprons for each encounter is ‘not necessary’ and instead ‘staff administering vaccinations must apply hand hygiene between patients and wear a sessional Type IIR mask’.

Gloves and aprons are only recommended for use when there is an anticipated exposure to bodily fluids or broken skin, the guidance states

Guidance on administering vaccinations published earlier in the Covid-19 pandemic said that gloves and aprons should be changed after each patient, while masks, visors and eye masks could be worn for an entire session.

‘Insufficient protection’

Amish Patel, owner of Hodgson Pharmacy in Kent, told the Pharmacist that the updated guidance was ‘insufficient’ to protect him and his patients.

Mr Patel said he has instead implemented his own precautions to keep people safe during the winter, including installing a plastic screen to separate patients and pharmacy staff while administering the flu vaccine.

Mr Patel added that he would be wearing a P3 mask, to protect him as well as his patients.

He said: ‘I’m aware that there are certain patients who do not have to wear a mask, such as asthmatics, [so] this P3 mask will keep me safe while being in close contact with them.

‘I’ve got a family at home to think about, I have to stay safe. We will also be wearing gloves and will be changing them between each patient.’

Graham Phillips, superintendent pharmacist at Manor Pharmacy Group in Hertfordshire, told the Pharmacist he suspects the new guidance is shaped around the availability of PPE rather than the safety of staff.

He said: ‘The advice seems to be changing on a daily basis - at the start of the pandemic, the advice was that pharmacy teams should not wear PPE at all. To me, this suggests it’s all pretty random and there isn’t much evidence behind what they’re saying.

‘At least this time, however, they are being consistent and pharmacies are being given the same advice as GP’s.’

‘Ongoing discussions’

Earlier this month, pharmacy teams in England were given access to free supplies of personal protective equipment (PPE) from the Government’s portal for the first time since the pandemic started.

The Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) has said it is still in discussions with the Department of Health and Social Care and NHS England over whether pharmacy contractors will be reimbursed for the cost of PPE purchased for use during the pandemic, including any protective equipment used for the flu vaccination advanced service.