Pharmacists have been targeted by anti-vaccination groups threatening legal action over their involvement in the Covid-19 vaccination programme.  

Leyla Hannbeck, chief executive of the Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies (AIMp), tweeted that several pharmacies had been sent a threatening letter claiming to be from a legal company.  

She said: ‘Some pharmacies operating #Covid19 #vaccination service have been sent this threatening letter from a law company. #Pharmacy teams have reported this to the police.’ 

The letter stated: ‘We ask that you do the following: Write to the CQC/LMC/MHRA/GMC/RCN/NHS/JCVI/Rt Hon Sajid Javid and any other relevant authority and inform them that the vaccination programme you are involved in must be cancelled and the reason for cancellation is that the SARS-CoV-2 injections are under police investigation.’  

However, the Metropolitan Police has said there is no criminal investigation.  

Responding to the letter, Ms Hannbeck told The Pharmacist: 'This is a typical example of the unacceptable harassment our members pharmacy colleagues are facing while caring for the wellbeing of the people in the communities around our pharmacies. Surely someone should be taking firm and immediate action against people such as these who are harassing our colleagues, especially as law is a regulated profession.'

Anti-vax incidents becoming more common 

It comes after the PDA has seen a rise in reported incidents of aggression and violence towards pharmacy staff working in vaccination sites.  

The PDA said last week (8 February): ‘Incidents are becoming more common and have seen protesters gaining entry to premises in groups and trying to disrupt Covid-19 vaccinations from taking place. Pharmacists, staff, and members of the public have been subjected to verbal threats and intimidating behaviour. Protesters are often filming their actions to gain wider exposure.’ 

The association reminded pharmacists that employers should regularly conduct risk assessments and have the ‘appropriate measures’ in place to ensure the safety of both staff and the public.  

It added: ‘Employers and business owners who have a contract with the NHS to provide the Covid-19 vaccinations have a duty of care and obligations under Health and Safety legislation to keep their staff safe whilst at work alongside anyone visiting their premises. This also includes protection from acts of threatening and violent behaviour. 

‘Advice has been provided by the NHS for anyone working in a vaccination site around security which can be accessed through the Future NHS platform. Guidance from the police states that if a crime is in progress or if someone is in immediate danger call 999. For non-emergency enquiries, such as reporting crimes and other concerns that do not require an emergency response call 101.’ 

The PDA also said pharmacists who have been subjected to violence or abuse in the workplace can contact the PDA for guidance and support.  

Pharmacy teams urged to get vaccinated 

On Friday, the GPhC outlined its position on pharmacy staff being vaccinated, which urged all pharmacists and pharmacy technicians to be vaccinated against Covid-19 unless they are exempt.  

It said: ‘As professional and community leaders, pharmacy professionals also demonstrate leadership by encouraging other members of their team, as well as patients and the public, to get vaccinated against Covid-19. 

‘The GPhC strongly urges any pharmacy professionals and pharmacy students and trainees who have not yet been fully vaccinated against Covid-19 to do so at the earliest possible opportunity.’  

Last year, several pharmacies were vandalised by anti-vaccine groups, including a pharmacy in west Belfast in October, and a family-run village pharmacy in Ambleside which was covered in yellow anti-vax graffiti.