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Pharmacies should be ‘at forefront’ of vaccination services, says Pfizer UK’s head of vaccines

By Isabel Shaw

15 Dec 2020

Pharmacies in the UK should be ‘at the forefront’ of vaccination services, the head of vaccines at Pfizer UK has said.

Speaking at the Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies (AIMp) last week (10 December), Darius Hughes said that the manufacturer is ‘fully supportive’ of pharmacy taking a lead in vaccination services going forward.

He said: ‘Pharmacies are a highly professional setting with highly professional staff. The feedback from 95% of customers is that they like coming into the pharmacy to receive their vaccine. Pharmacies are also local and convenient for many patients.’

Mr Hughes added that pharmacies are good at increasing vaccine uptake by vaccinating ‘hard to reach’ patients and that the sector has already shown it can deliver vaccinations at scale.

He made the comments in response to a question about pharmacy having a greater involvement in vaccination programmes in the UK.

According to data collated by PSNC, this year (2020/21) English pharmacies broke last year’s flu vaccine record in just two months of the service starting, vaccinating more than 1.7 million patients by November – an achievement that Mr Hughes also described as ‘incredible’.

Speaking on the new Covid-19 vaccination programme, Mr Hughes said that he hoped pharmacies would get ‘more involved’ as other vaccines are approved and join the market, and as the programme ‘broadens out to involve more cohorts and people’.

The Pfizer and BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine is the first to have been approved for use in the UK and is this week being delivered to GP practice sites for the start of the programme.

As it stands, NHS England is only planning to commission a ‘limited’ number of community pharmacy vaccination sites because the majority are unlikely to be able to meet the site requirements.

‘Due to the likelihood of complex logistics in this new supply chain, there will be a limited number of sites commissioned to deliver high volumes of vaccines mostly at a separate site, for twelve-hour days, seven days a week,’ a letter sent to contractors last month said.

‘We expect to commission fewer community pharmacy sites than GP PCN led centres,’ it added.

NHS England has urged pharmacies not involved with the first phase of the programme to ‘continue their very important role in flu vaccination, particularly of the new 50 to 64-year-old cohort’

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