NHS England is currently assessing 200 pharmacy sites to be used to deliver the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine in the coming weeks, it has confirmed.

NHS England confirmed to the Pharmacist today (7 January) that it is currently assessing the 200 sites, some of which will begin delivering the Oxford vaccine from next week.

Pharmacists were invited to apply to become a designated vaccination site at the end of November 2020, but NHS England said at the time that it only planned to commission a limited number as it did not expect most contractors to able to meet the necessary requirements.

The criteria community pharmacies had to meet in order to be a vaccination site included being able to deliver over 1,000 vaccinations a week.

NHS England said successful applicants were informed in December.

The Pharmacist understands that the Oxford vaccine - which was approved by the medicines regulator on 30 December - will be supplied to all of the community pharmacy-led local vaccination services.

An NHS spokesperson said: ‘Pharmacies are already working with GPs to deliver the vaccine in many areas of the country. As more supply becomes available, community pharmacists able to administer large numbers of vaccine will play a role in the NHS’s phased vaccination programme, the biggest in the health service’s history.’

Approved vaccination sites

M W Phillips Chemists will be one of the first community pharmacies in England to vaccinate the population, after its vaccination site in Great Barr, Birmingham was approved by NHS England and Improvement last week.

A spokesperson for the pharmacy told the Pharmacist that the multiple will be using its new warehouse - which will be ready to open from Monday - to administer the vaccine on a large scale.

‘We’ve paused it’s development as a warehouse and have turned it into a mass vaccination centre,’ they added.

‘We’ve reached out to our store teams for help and the response has been immense. Everyone wants to do their bit in the fight against this virus: all our pharmacists, our technicians right across the range to our people in accounts and our delivery drivers.'

A spokesperson for Boots confirmed that the multiple will initially open three Covid-19 vaccination sites - in conjunction with local clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) - in Halifax, Huddersfield and Gloucester.

‘[The sites] will begin vaccinating patients in early January,’ they said.

‘We stand ready to do much more and our national network of pharmacy expertise is prepped to support the NHS and the government to accelerate the rollout of the vaccine.'

A LloydsPharmacy spokesperson told the Pharmacist that it is currently awaiting confirmation of its involvement in the programme.

The spokesperson said: ‘LloydsPharmacy has participated in the tender process to help the NHS deliver the Covid-19 vaccine roll-out programme, offering the support of our pharmacies. 

‘We would be delighted to be involved and look forward to confirming how we can support. With the MHRA approval of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, we believe there is now a bigger role for community pharmacy to play in helping the government to meet its vaccination targets.’

'Working with community pharmacy'

The Government has also faced widespread calls from the sector this week to involve all community pharmacies in the vaccination programme.

Speaking in the House of Commons yesterday (6 January), prime minister Boris Johnson said community pharmacies in England had a 'potentially vital role' to play.

In response to a question from Lib Dem MP Munira Wilson, Mr Johnson told Parliament the Government had so far ‘signed up hundreds [of community pharmacies] to the campaign’, adding there would be ‘many more to follow’.

Meanwhile, covid vaccine deployment minister Nadhim Zahawi told LBC News listeners yesterday that the Government will be ‘working with the community pharmacy and independent sector in the coming days and weeks’ in order to reach the February vaccination target of 13 million doses. 

Health secretary Matt Hancock said today (7 January) that the Government is currently ‘expanding the number of pharmacies who are going to be delivering the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine’.

He said: ‘We will keep working with community pharmacies to see whether we can expand and to see how the rollout goes and which of the different types of sites are more effective.'

He added that there was a 'special role' for community pharmacies in the vaccine rollout and they would be able to 'make sure we reach all parts of the country'.

'National action plan'

PSNC chief executive Simon Dukes said: 'We know that some pharmacies have been making applications to become local vaccination sites, but we want to see a national action plan to widen this to involve as many pharmacies as want to help in the programme.

'The public want this too - they are used to getting a flu jab at their local pharmacy and some have already approached pharmacy teams to enquire about the Covid-19 vaccine.'

He added: 'We need the Government to move quickly towards a rapid rollout of the Covid-10 vaccine from pharmacy teams, using the skills of a sector that's used to overcoming hurdles to provide the best care to their patients.'