There are currently no plans to use community pharmacies in Scotland or Wales for the rollout of the Covid booster, the Welsh and Scottish Governments have said.
Vaccine programmes are due to begin in September for eligible groups, however, neither Government has confirmed the involvement of the community pharmacy sector.
This comes after the English Government said last month that community pharmacies will be expected to deliver 3.5 million vaccines per week over the booster period.
More recently, the NHS has said that at least 1,000 more pharmacies in England will be required to deliver phase three of the Covid vaccine programme.
This is because pharmacies will be expected to deliver the majority of vaccines while other vaccine staff working at vaccine centres return to usual roles.
Matt Barclay, director of operations for Community Pharmacy Scotland (CPS) told The Pharmacist today (3 August) that ‘at this time there are no plans to utilise the community pharmacy network to deliver Covid booster vaccines routinely in Scotland.
‘Although some geographies and Health Boards community pharmacy may be part of the solution for local reasons,’ he explained.
‘CPS have stated that should Scottish Government wish to explore the possibility of vaccinations to support NHS delivery we would be open to discussing this.’
The Scottish Government told The Pharmacist that it was ‘too early’ to put an specific date on the rollout’ however, they anticipate vaccinating to begin sometime in ‘early’ September.
They said: ‘NHS Boards are planning the next step in our vaccination efforts, based on the interim advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) on a potential Covid-19 vaccine booster programme.’
Back in June, The Pharmacist reported that just three pharmacies in Scotland had been commissioned to deliver the Covid vaccine.
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.
The Pharmacist has contacted individual boards for further information.
Meanwhile, a spokesperson from Community Pharmacy Wales (CPW) said that despite there being an ‘appetite for involvement’ there is currently ‘no clarity on the start, the shape or the level of involvement of pharmacies
.’ in the booster programme.
The Welsh Government told The Pharmacist that they ‘plan’ to start the vaccine campaign in early September ‘subject to the final advice from the JCVI and vaccine supply.’
Much like Scotland, local Health Boards in Wales have control over the vaccine programme and therefore dictate the level of involvement of the community pharmacy sector.
Five of the seven Health Boards that responded to The Pharmacist’s query on the sector’s involvement could not yet confirm whether community pharmacies would be used.
Powys Teaching Health Board said that ‘planning for the booster programme does not currently include delivery through community pharmacy.’
Hywel Dda University Health Board said that plans for the rollout are currently ‘in development’ and could therefore not comment.
A spokesperson from Cwm Taf Morgannwg University Local Health Board said: ‘We are still planning the autumn booster rollout and at this stage of planning our community pharmacies are not involved in the autumn campaign.’
Similarly, a spokesperson for Cardiff and Vale University Health Board said that their Covid booster is in the ‘planning stages’ and therefore ‘we aren’t able to confirm any details at the moment.’
Aneurin Bevan University Health Board said they are currently working on plans for the Covid-19 Booster Programme, which it said will ‘predominantly be delivered through Health Board Mass Vaccination Clinics.’
In March, The Pharmacist reported that only 18 of the 713 community pharmacies in Wales had been commissioned to deliver the Covid vaccine, despite calls to boost the sector’s involvement.