Community pharmacies in Northern Ireland have been commissioned to deliver the flu vaccine to all adults over 50 this coming winter, as well as health and social care workers.   

It follows the pharmacy network’s successful delivery of the previous flu vaccination service, with almost 16,000 people vaccinated in last year’s campaign.  

In a letter sent to the pharmacy sector last week (15 September), the Department of Health confirmed the vaccine programme will begin in October and will involve ‘hundreds’ of pharmacies from across the country.  

Last winter was the first year community pharmacies in Northern Ireland were commissioned to provide the flu vaccination service — in which they only jabbed health and social care workers — after a successful pilot was launched earlier in the year.  

This year, the annual flu vaccination programme has once again been expanded to protect the vulnerable as Covid-19 pressures on the NHS continue. As part of this, all adults over 50 will be eligible for a free flu vaccine.   

In addition, all secondary school children from years 8 to year 12 will be eligible. However, pharmacies have not been commissioned to vaccinate this cohort.   

Gerard Greene, chief executive of Community Pharmacy Northern Ireland (CPNI) welcomed the expansion of community pharmacy’s role in the vaccination programme this winter.   

He said: ‘This winter is expected to be incredibly tough on our health service, with a harsh flu season anticipated, alongside the ongoing battle against Covid-19.   

‘The expansion to those over 50 years old and frontline health and social care workers gives the public the option of getting their flu vaccine at a convenient, accessible location with a local pharmacist they know and trust.’  

He added: ‘Following on from a successful community pharmacy flu vaccination service last winter when almost 16,000 flu vaccine doses were administered, this year’s community pharmacy winter flu vaccination service will run alongside the Covid-19 vaccine programme which will include an enhanced and vital role for community pharmacy in the Covid-19 booster programme’  

Raymond Anderson, a community pharmacist in Northern Ireland, said: ‘We are thrilled to be offering even more members of our community the opportunity to receive a flu vaccine at their local pharmacy.   

‘Community pharmacy has demonstrated it can deliver vaccination programmes successfully and the expansion of this service is welcomed by not only the profession but also the public.’