NHS must not miss opportunity to use community pharmacies to vaccinate up to a million people a week with the Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid vaccine

The NHS must learn from the process of organising the Pfizer Covid vaccine programme to ensure that the full potential of community pharmacies is used to roll out other Covid vaccines, according to the Company Chemists’ Association (CCA).

Community pharmacists could currently provide around half a million Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid vaccinations each week, and potentially double this capacity with minor adjustments. The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine’s storage requirements are similar to the flu vaccine, which community pharmacists already provide to millions of people every year. However, there is still uncertainty about how the NHS will make full use of this capacity. The CCA represents large community pharmacy operators, some of whom are running sites to provide the Pfizer Covid vaccine.

Malcolm Harrison, Chief Executive of the CCA, said: “The challenges of organising the Covid mass vaccination programme are enormous and we have been working with the NHS to help address them. The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine represents a historic moment in our collective efforts to beat Covid, given that it is easier to store and prepare than the Pfizer vaccine. This should help the NHS unleash the full potential of pharmacy teams up and down the country.

“Community pharmacies offer an army of experienced and qualified professionals ready and willing to provide the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine in thousands of accessible sites across the country. However, we are concerned that the NHS could miss the opportunity to use this network at its full capacity unless lessons are learnt from the planning of the Pfizer vaccine programme.

“The delivery of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine does not need to be established from the ground up. There are tried and tested logistical and clinical networks that can easily be used to deliver what is needed with very little lead time.

“We urge the NHS to adopt a flexible approach to providing accessible vaccinations by working with the CCA and our pharmacy partners to find solutions to the challenges we face. We must leave no stone unturned in our efforts to ensure the Covid vaccine programme is a success, without any unnecessary delay.”

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