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Exclusive: Highland pharmacies first to deliver Covid vaccines in Scotland

Scottish pharmacies covid vaccine

By Isabel Shaw

03 Jun 2021

Three pharmacies in northern Scotland are among the first to deliver the Covid vaccine, the Pharmacist has learned.

NHS Highland said that two of the pharmacies in the area already provide the vaccine — one to residents under the age of 49, and the other offering ‘mop-up vaccinations’ for people who cannot attend an appointment at the local mobile vaccination centre.

Another pharmacy vaccine site in Inverness is due to launch next week (10 June) to provide ‘mop-up clinics to support the main vaccination centre for the Inverness population aged 39 and under,’ a spokesperson for the board added.

Meanwhile, NHS Grampian told the Pharmacist it was running a pilot Covid vaccination clinic with a pharmacy in Aberdeen this week.

A spokesperson said: ‘We need to see how this goes, so at present no other approaches have been made to community pharmacies. We have not actively sought any expressions of interest or entered into commissioning.’

Health boards in Scotland have been able to agree local arrangements with pharmacy contractors in their areas for the delivery of the Covid-19 vaccination programme following an agreement between the Scottish Government and Community Pharmacy Scotland (CPS) late last year.

The agreement, set out in a circular in November 2020, explained that community pharmacies would ‘not be the default delivery channel for Covid-19 vaccination’, but said that they ‘are asked to support the programme by providing vaccinations by agreement’.

CPS told the Pharmacist that there are ‘no consistent plans’ to use community pharmacies for Covid vaccinations, but there ‘may be certain areas used for other reasons’, including NHS Highland using pharmacies for ‘geographical reasons’.

‘We will continue to engage and should other models elsewhere in the UK prove to be successful and make an impact for the public, we will use this evidence to support any CP [community pharmacy] involvement when and where we can,’ the spokesperson added.

Currently, Scotland’s vaccination planning sits within local partnerships and winter 2020-21 was the first time community pharmacy teams in the country were able to be part of the NHS’s flu vaccination effort.

In March, CPS called for pharmacists to have a greater role in vaccination programmes in the nation in a manifesto ahead of the Scottish Parliament elections.

Future pharmacy involvement

The Pharmacist also spoke to a further eight Scottish health boards, all of which confirmed that no community pharmacies have been directly commissioned to deliver Covid vaccinations.

Dr Mark Russell, lead for the Covid-19 vaccination programme in NHS Lanarkshire, said that pharmacies have not been commissioned to protect them from increased footfall.

‘Community pharmacies in Lanarkshire are not involved in the wider community vaccination clinics as the number of people to be vaccinated is too great and there are several complexities around the vaccine,’ he said

‘We felt it was important to protect pharmacies and not increase the footfall on their premises. This allows them to continue their vital work as being the first point of contact for many patients. However, pharmacists are eligible to work shifts at our community clinics.’

In NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, and NHS Forth Valley, pharmacists are helping at vaccination centres and working as vaccinators. However, both health boards said that while they had no plans to involve community pharmacies in the vaccination programme currently, this may change in the future.

An NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde spokesperson said its planning for winter was ‘currently under review, which may change the situation’.

An NHS Forth Valley spokesperson said: ‘Many local community pharmacists have expressed an interest in supporting us to develop and deliver flu and Covid-19 booster vaccinations in 2021/22 using their premises.

‘Planning for these programmes is still at an early stage and will also be informed by national guidance however discussions are underway with a range of professional groups to look at how we can deliver these programmes locally.’

Meanwhile, NHS Ayrshire and Arran said that the model for the delivery of future vaccines, including Covid, was ‘extremely complex’ and will be ‘developed over the coming weeks’.

‘Community pharmacies are not involved in the current wave of the Covid-19 vaccination programme. They are kept informed of the progress of the programme, in preparation for potential future involvement,’ the spokesperson added.

‘Our community pharmacies are well placed to support the Covid-19 vaccination programme having supported the seasonal flu immunisation programme.’

NHS Tayside, NHS Borders, NHS Western Isles, NHS Fife all confirmed to the Pharmacist that they currently have no plans to involve community pharmacies in Covid vaccinations. However, both NHS Tayside and NHS Fife indicated that pharmacies may be asked to be involved in the future.

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