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‘We are finally being utilised properly’: Community pharmacies in Northern Ireland start Covid jabs

flu vaccinations

By Isabel Shaw

30 Mar 2021

Community pharmacies across Northern Ireland have begun delivering the Covid-19 vaccine, the health minister announced yesterday (29 March). 

Speaking during a visit to Timoney Pharmacy in Lambeg, health minister Robin Swann said: ‘This is a significant day in our vaccination journey and I am delighted to formally launch this new Covid-19 vaccination service in community pharmacies across Northern Ireland.’

According to Community Pharmacy Northern Ireland, the new service will see almost 350 community pharmacies administer the vaccine to eligible cohorts. 

Mark Timoney, superintendent pharmacist at Timoney Pharmacy — which began delivering the vaccine last week — told the Pharmacist that he finally felt as if the sector was being fully utilised.

‘It feels absolutely right for pharmacists to be providing the service,’ he explained.

‘For years community pharmacy in Northern Ireland has been underutilised, and finally, it feels as if we are being utilised properly.’

Last winter was the first-year community pharmacies in Northern Ireland were commissioned to provide the flu vaccination service after a successful pilot was launched earlier in the year.

‘Providing the flu service this year was actually great preparation for delivering the Covid-19 vaccine,’ Mr Timoney said.

‘There is a sense of fulfilment and a feeling that we are getting to grips with the pandemic and being such a key part of the solution is great.’

He added: ‘There is a very high level of satisfaction from our patients for running this service, especially from those who have had issues travelling to the larger vaccine sites.

‘We are very aware of how trusted pharmacies are in terms of ensuring medicine supply and of course providing advice on wider health issues. Community pharmacies are often on patients’ doorsteps.’

‘Pleased to contribute’

Meanwhile Aine Donnelly, a pre-reg pharmacist at Medicare Pharmacy in Dungannon, said that the team was ‘very happy’ to be part of the national delivery of the vaccine.

‘We are pleased to be contributing in some way and to be making a difference to people’s lives during the pandemic,’ she said.

Medicare Pharmacy is currently preparing to vaccinate its local population from tomorrow, after its booking site went live yesterday. 

‘Everyone seems to be very grateful that they can now access the vaccine so easily,’ Ms Donnelly added.

After receiving her vaccine at Timoney pharmacy, chief pharmaceutical officer Cathy Harrison said: ‘Community pharmacies have played a vital role throughout the pandemic and will continue to do so as they join the vaccination rollout programme.

‘Over the course of the past year, the general public has come to rely on community pharmacists more than ever before due to their accessibility and the addition of this new service will greatly benefit the people of Northern Ireland.’

She added: ‘Given the high demand for vaccines we anticipate that community pharmacies will be a popular option for those who are eligible so please be patient with pharmacy teams.’

Plans to involve community pharmacies in the rollout in Northern Ireland were announced earlier this month.

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