Community pharmacists will be able to administer Covid-19 vaccines under amendments to the Human Medicines Regulations 2012 that come into force today (16 October).  

The changes, which follow the Government’s public consultation in August, mean that an expanded cohort of healthcare professionals will be trained up to administer both flu and Covid vaccines – once one becomes available. 

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said this expansion will begin with those who ‘already have experience in handling vaccinations but may currently work outside of NHS settings’, including pharmacists, independent nurses, allied health professionals, physiotherapists, paramedics, student nurses and doctors. 

‘The expanded workforce will undergo a robust training programme to ensure patient safety is upheld to the highest standards,’ it added. 

DHSC told the Pharmacist it was keeping ‘all options open’ when asked whether pharmacy technicians will be included in the expanded cohort of practitioners.  

Under the new law, the scope of patient group directions (PGDs) has also been expanded to allow for the administration of any medicine, including Covid-19 vaccines, DHSC confirmed. 

Powers to approve unlicensed vaccine  

The amendments also grant the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) powers to approve an unlicensed Covid vaccine.  

The MHRA will be able to ‘exceptionally grant temporary authorisation’ for unlicensed new vaccines, provided they meet ‘the highest safety, quality and effectiveness standards and there is a significant public health justification for doing so’, DHSC said.  

Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, deputy chief medical officer, said: ‘Covid-19 vaccines are being developed at speed which, if successful, will save lives. 

‘All vaccines must undergo three stages of clinical trials and be assessed for safety and effectiveness by the regulator before they are given to patients. The measures outlined today aim to improve access and strengthen existing safeguards protecting patients.’ 

Health secretary Matt Hancock added: ‘These legal changes will help us in doing everything we can to make sure we are ready to roll out a safe and effective Covid-19 vaccine as soon as it has passed clinical trials and undergone rigorous checks by the regulator.’ 

Community pharmacy has been providing flu vaccinations under an advanced service since September 2015, and has carried out 1,479,749 vaccinations in the 2020 season to date, according to figures collected by PSNC.