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Over half of pharmacy staff believe Covid vaccination should be mandatory

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By Isabel Shaw

26 Oct 2021

Over half (53%) of pharmacy staff believe it should be mandatory for health and social care workers to be vaccinated against Covid and the flu to work in healthcare settings, a survey has revealed.

This comes after the Government launched a consultation last month (9 September) on plans to require all frontline health and social care staff in England to have the flu and Covid vaccine in a bid to keep patients and staff safer.

Yesterday (25 October) the health secretary told Sky News has was ‘leaning towards’ making the Covid-19 vaccine compulsory for NHS staff.

Community pharmacies are not within the scope of the consultation unless they provide CQC-regulated services such as hospital services.

However, the Royal Pharmaceutical Society’s (RPS) survey of its members and pharmacy technicians showed that many pharmacy staff are in favour of the proposal.

Of 2,211 pharmacy staff who responded to the survey this month (October), 53% supported making vaccinations mandatory and 47% did not, said the RPS.

Despite the survey results, the RPS re-affirmed its position that Covid-19 and flu vaccinations for health and care staff should not be made mandatory.

Unvaccinated pharmacists should take steps to minimise risks

Responding to the consultation yesterday, the body said: ‘We do not agree with making Covid-19 or flu vaccinations mandatory, as informed and educated choices about health interventions are more beneficial long-term than enforcing them.’

However, it also said that it expected unvaccinated pharmacists ‘to take steps to make sure that they minimise risks, including a discussion with their employer, risk assessment and infection prevention measures’.

‘We would welcome strong guidance from the DH to provide consistency of approach for employers who have staff who choose not to be vaccinated,’ RPS added.

The body acknowledged some ‘significant’ consequences of mandatory vaccines. Which included limiting patients’ access to health services in both primary and secondary care, if those staff who did not wish to have the vaccine were not allowed to work.

It also said that mandatory vaccines could lead to ‘discrimination and inequalities in the workforce’, particularly among people from some ethnic minorities and socioeconomic backgrounds.

However, the body said: ‘We actively and strongly encourage all pharmacists to take advantage of the Covid-19 programme and to get vaccinated unless there is a medical reason why they are unable to.

‘All members of the pharmacy team should have any vaccine deemed necessary to help protect themselves, their patients and the wider community. We consider this to be best practice and within the GPhC standards for pharmacy professionals where pharmacists should make the care of the person their first concern and act in their best interests.’

Meanwhile, community pharmacy team members in England are now eligible to receive a free flu vaccine during the 2020/21 vaccine rollout.

This will be the first time that all pharmacy team members — including all patient-facing staff, non-clinical staff and locums — will be able to receive a vaccine as part of the community pharmacy seasonal influenza advanced service.

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