Pharmacists should ‘use every opportunity’ to identify people eligible for vaccination, NICE has recommended.

Under new quality standards for improving vaccine uptake in the general population, pharmacists should offer eligible patients’ vaccines when they visit community pharmacies for health advice, medication reviews, or to collect prescriptions.

The vaccination guidance published last week (17 May) supports some of the aims mentioned in the NHS Long Term Plan, published in 2019, which includes actions to improve immunisation coverage across the UK.

Pharmacies that offer NHS vaccines should identify local population needs and barriers to vaccine uptake, NICE said. They should also make sure people eligible for the vaccine have multiple opportunities to get vaccinated at a time and place that is convenient for them.

This means pharmacies should consider providing vaccination services during extended hours and extended access appointments in evenings and weekends for people who may find it difficult to attend at other times, NICE added.

In January, the Government announced that community pharmacies will be able to permanently run vaccination services from premises other than their registered premises.

The measure — which has allowed pharmacies to provide Covid vaccinations in off-site locations such as in car parks, sports stadiums, town halls and marquees — was put in place by NHS England and Improvement in August 2020, and was due to end on 1 April 2022 before it was permanently extended.

NICE explained that Gypsy, Roma and Traveller people, refugees, and people with learning difficulties are groups with lower levels of vaccination than average.

The guideline committee also urged pharmacy vaccine leads to ensure other pharmacy staff members who are in contact with people eligible for vaccination, but do not administer vaccines, have ongoing education about vaccination have ongoing education about vaccination.

The guideline only covers vaccines on the complete routine immunisation schedule, this does not include seasonal vaccinations such as flu, Covid-19 vaccinations, travel vaccines, selective immunisation programmes, or areas covered by other guidelines such as tuberculosis.