Community pharmacy and general practice teams in England have administered the flu vaccine to over 19 million people since the programme began in September.
In a primary care bulletin, sent to staff on Wednesday (16 March), NHS England and Improvement (NHSE&I) said that that flu vaccination programme this year had been an ‘incredible success’ and that collectively community pharmacy teams and general practice had vaccinated over 4 million people more than last year.
They added: ‘We want to say a huge thank you for all your hard work in keeping people in your communities safe – you really are going above and beyond.’
The programme was expanded to more cohorts this year – including the over 50s and shielded patients and their households – in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The latest figures from the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) show community pharmacies alone have vaccinated 2,616,499 since the start of the programme, more than one million more than the sector achieved over the entire flu season last year.
This comes after data from PHE’s respiratory DataMart flu surveillance system, published last month, revealed that no flu cases had been found in England this year, to date.
Mike Hewitson, superintendent pharmacist at Beaminster Pharmacy in Dorset, told the Pharmacist that most patients had still attended for a flu jab in the busier months of the season – September to December.
‘We’ve not been doing much recently, most of the activity generally happens in September, October, November and little bit in December which is what we’ve seen this year also,’ he said.
He added: ‘This year, because of Covid and social distancing we chose to do the service a bit differently. We have been offering vaccines at an off-site clinic to accommodate the need for extra space, instead of doing walk-ins, and have also been visiting care homes.’
Meanwhile, Sunil Kochhar, a consultant pharmacist and IP at Regent Pharmacy in Gravesend, Kent, said that interest in his flu service has extended longer into the programme than in previous years.
‘This month, we’ve only done about five or six, but normally we’d see uptake slow down much earlier – in November,’ he said.
‘When the over 50s were announced there was a peak then and when the Covid vaccine announcement was made December time we saw another peak – and after that it slowed down completely.’