Community pharmacies should deliver more flu vaccines this autumn, while also ‘significantly’ contributing to the Covid booster programme, the minister for primary care, Jo Churchill, has said.
During a speech at the 2021 National Pharmacy Association (NPA) Conference, held virtually yesterday (5 July), Ms Churchill said that she wanted pharmacies to administer ‘more [Covid] vaccines and more flu vaccines’.
‘Last year [pharmacy] did more flu vaccines than ever before and I want to see even more this year,’ she explained.
NHS England confirmed earlier this year that people aged 50 to 64 are expected to be eligible for a free vaccination again next season, having been included for the first time in 2020.
Figures from the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) show community pharmacies alone vaccinated 2,617,628 during the 2020/21 programme, over one million more than the sector achieved in the entire flu season last year.
Community pharmacies also exceeded the 2019 flu vaccine record in just two months of the 2020 service, vaccinating more than 1.7 million patients by November.
The minister also said she expected pharmacies to play a major role in the rollout of the booster vaccine, with the number of vaccines the sector delivers to go up ‘significantly’ as the number of pharmacy-led sites delivering the vaccine increases over the next few months.
Pharmacy-led sites have currently administered over 5 million vaccines, with sites delivering up to 600,000 per week.
‘I discussed with Nadim [Zahawi] this week, how much more value we can get [from the pharmacy network] and how much more we can drive those numbers up, not by 10s but by 100s,’ she added.
NHS England announced last week that an extra 1,000 community pharmacies in England will be signed up to deliver the Covid booster vaccine ahead of September.
NHSE will encourage flexible co-administration of the booster programme which will involve ‘adding additional [community pharmacy] sites that can deliver flu vaccination to the Covid-19 vaccine supply network’.
Pharmacies that submit a vaccine site application will receive confirmation from mid to late July. A pharmacy service specification will also be published later this month.
At the same conference, Ms Churchill said that that Sajid Javid, the new Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, was committed to Matt Hancock’s vision for community pharmacy.