Sending community pharmacists to work at mass vaccination centres risks bringing community pharmacies in Wales to a ‘standstill’, the chair of Community Pharmacy Wales (CPW) has warned.

Giving evidence to the Senedd yesterday (3 February), CPW’s Mark Griffiths said that while mass vaccination centres (MVCs) are ‘undoubtedly’ key to the Covid vaccine rollout, they are ‘not necessarily the best place for a pharmacist’.

‘If a community pharmacy is without a qualified pharmacist, it cannot dispense,’ he said.

His comments come after a number of Welsh Minister ministers have made reference to using pharmacists at MCVs when answering questions about community pharmacy involvement in the programme.

During a press briefing last month, Wales’ first minister Mark Drakeford said that not all pharmacies will be commissioned to deliver the vaccine due to the logistics surrounding their size.

However, he added that community pharmacists could instead be asked to administer vaccinations at mass vaccination centres.

Mr Griffiths said: ‘The last thing anyone would want is that a community pharmacy network that has continued to open and operate for the last ten months is brought to a standstill by diverting community pharmacists to MVCs.’

‘Key frontline role’

The CPW chair also told the Senedd that community pharmacies are ready to vaccinate the next cohort of eligible patients. 

‘We think that once the programme reaches the working population of under 65s, community pharmacies will be best placed to play a key frontline role in vaccinating as many people as possible from the convenience of high street locations,’ he said.

He added that to achieve the rollout to the bigger cohorts the Welsh Government needs to implement a ‘patient-friendly national booking system linking seamlessly to existing clinical systems’.

‘This would allow patients to choose the time and place for vaccination which is flexible and convenient to them and help maximise the use of vaccinators in the accessible network of community pharmacies,’ Mr Griffiths said.

All seven of the Welsh Health Boards have invited pharmacies to submit expressions of interest in delivering Covid vaccinations, but only a small number have been commissioned so far.

According to CPW, only four pharmacies have been commissioned – all in Betsi Cadwaladr as part of a pilot scheme. Approximately 20 pharmacies in Hywel Dda also responded to the health board’s expression of interest in December, but none of these have been commissioned yet.

Mr Griffiths urged Health Boards to commission community pharmacies ‘with urgency and pace’.