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Government must use pharmacy ‘more’ in booster programme, says Ashworth

By Isabel Shaw

01 Nov 2021

The shadow health secretary is urging ministers to make greater use of community pharmacy to do more Covid vaccines to fix the ‘stalling’ booster vaccination programme. 

Speaking outside of Yakub’s Chemist in Leicester on Friday (29 October) Jonathan Ashworth, Leicester South MP, said that the Government needed to enlist ‘more’ community pharmacies to provide vaccines so that more of the population are covered.  

He also called on the Government to provide ‘more support’ for community pharmacies to enable the vaccines to be delivered.

‘Vaccination is our greatest wall of defence against Covid, but it is crumbling at the moment because the vaccination programme is stalling,’ he said.

Latest NHS records — which were updated in July — suggest that 688 pharmacies across England had been commissioned to administer the Covid vaccine.  

This comes as the booster programme has come under scrutiny for being slow to vaccinate all eligible groups.  

More than six million people have already had a booster jab or a third dose, NHS England have has said. 

Last week (22 October), the Telegraph revealed that hundreds of additional pharmacies will be commissioned to deliver booster vaccines under Government plans to make it easier for people to get vaccinated. 

The paper said it understands that approximately 300 pharmacies are currently undergoing a final clearance before coming online, with a further 200 having expressed interest in joining. 

Meanwhile, plans for improving access to GP appointments, published last month, suggested that ​​community pharmacies in England could be given additional Covid booster vaccine appointments redirected from general practice.  

‘If practices taking part in the booster programme — ‘phase three’ — are providing an ‘inappropriately low’ number of face-to-face appointments for patients, Covid vaccine appointments should be passed on ‘most likely through community pharmacy’, NHS England (NHSE) said in the document. 

In April,  NHSE said that community pharmacies would be expected to deliver 3.5 million vaccines per week over the booster period. 

Eligible groups include everyone over 50 and people with underlying health conditions that make them vulnerable to Covid. It also includes adult household contacts of immunosuppressed individuals. 

In July, pharmacy sites that could administer 100 Covid vaccines per week were called forward to submit expressions of interest to deliver the booster. 

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