Life-saving coronavirus jabs will begin to be delivered at High Street pharmacies from today as the NHS accelerates the biggest vaccination programme in its history.
Boots, Superdrug and several independent stores will be the first of hundreds of community pharmacies to offer vaccinations protecting against Covid-19.
Two hundred community pharmacies are due to come online over the next fortnight as more vaccine supplies come on stream by the end of the month.
Stores capable of delivering large volumes while allowing for social distancing are initially being selected to give the best geographical spread.
Anyone in the highest risk groups who does not want to travel there or to a large-scale vaccination centre can wait to be called forward by their local GP or hospital services by 15 February. If that is the case, or if they have received the vaccination through another route since the invitation went out, they do not need to do anything.
Jabs are now being offered at more than 200 hospitals sites along with around 800 GP-led services, with another 200 GP-run sites coming online this week.
Seven large-scale vaccination centres opened this week, one in each NHS region, with dozens more to follow in the coming weeks.
Dr Bruce Warner, Deputy Chief Pharmaceutical Officer said:
“The NHS coronavirus vaccination programme, the biggest in health service history, has got off to a great start with more than 2.4 million jabs delivered.
“Pharmacy teams have been working incredibly hard throughout the pandemic and, as we accelerate the vaccination programme, they are playing a vital role in delivering the life-saving jabs to those in their communities.
“We know that people are very keen to get the vaccine but we are appealing to people not to turn up early so that we can maintain social distancing.”
The first pilot sites will start vaccinations today with up to 70 more taking bookings for next week and hundreds opening by the end of the month. The pilot sites are:
Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock said:
“It is fantastic that high-street pharmacies will now begin deploying COVID-19 vaccinations. Pharmacies sit at the heart of local communities and will make a big difference to our rollout programme by providing even more local, convenient places for those that are eligible to get their jab.
“Pharmacists have worked tirelessly throughout the pandemic, often acting as the first port of call for medical advice – and often staying open when all around have closed. I want to extend my thanks to every pharmacy for their efforts to support the national response to the pandemic and keep people safe.”
Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi said:
“Staff across the NHS have pulled out all the stops to help ramp up vaccinations and are working day and night to keep people safe.
“Pharmacies play a vital role in caring for the nation and I am really pleased to see them coming on stream to help with the national vaccine roll-out effort.”
People invited to make an appointment through the new national booking service will be given a choice between a vaccination centre or a pharmacy service.
It will not be possible to use the NHS Covid-19 Vaccination Booking Service if you have not received an invitation letter. Doing so risks someone who has not being able to get through and book their appointment.
It will also not be possible to get a vaccine at a vaccination centre or community pharmacy without an appointment. Doing so risks disrupting the work of NHS staff in protecting those at highest risk.
The NHS made history when Maggie Keenan became the first person in the world to be protected against coronavirus outside of a clinical trial when she received the Pfizer vaccine at Coventry Hospital on the 8 December.
The NHS was also the first health system to deliver the new Oxford AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine when Brian Pinker, 82, was jabbed last Monday.
The Oxford vaccine has now been rolled out to GP-led services and is easier to transport and get to care home residents.
NHS and social care staff are also being prioritised now that more vaccine is coming on stream.
These top priority groups were set by the government following advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI).
Simon Dukes, Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee, Chief Executive said:
“It is fantastic to see the first community pharmacy COVID-19 vaccination sites going live this week and we look forward to seeing more pharmacies involved in the programme in due course. We know that patients will value this and that pharmacies can make a significant contribution to the national vaccination efforts.”
Michael Henry, Superdrug’s Healthcare Director said:
“Today sees a significant step forward in making the vaccination more accessible to people most at risk from coronavirus as our pharmacists and nurses use their clinical expertise to deliver the vaccine.
“Guildford is the first of five current Superdrug sites to support the NHS with the rollout of its critical vaccination programme and we are in active discussions for additional vaccination sites through further pharmacy involvement.
“We are proud to be working with the NHS and welcome the opportunity for more of our front-line clinical teams together with other community pharmacy teams to play an even greater role in delivering the vaccination service to more patients more quickly.”
Seb James, Managing Director of Boots UK and ROI, said:
“As we begin vaccinations at our Halifax pharmacy today, we are incredibly proud to be supporting the NHS during this extraordinary time. Our pharmacists are experts in vaccination programmes and have a trusted role at the heart of our local communities. Pharmacies are extremely well placed to support the roll out of this vaccine quickly and safely.”
Mark Lyonette, chief executive of the National Pharmacy Association, which represents independent community pharmacies said:
“Community pharmacists are eager to play their part in the Covid-19 vaccination programme, and as trusted health care professionals they will have a key role in achieving widespread uptake.
“We are proud that National Pharmacy Association members – who have been on the health service frontline throughout the pandemic – are joining this great national effort to defeat the virus.
“This is a proud moment for community pharmacy and a moment of hope for all.
“We look forward to working with the NHS on the further mobilisation of pharmacies, right across the country.”
Malcolm Harrison, Chief Executive, Company Chemists’ Association said:
“The CCA is delighted that two of its members, Boots and Superdrug, are part of this historic step in the fight against coronavirus. We are fully supportive of community pharmacy teams being involved, using their clinical expertise to help protect at-risk groups against COVID-19. We look forward to working with the NHS to ensure that community pharmacies play an even bigger role in the Covid vaccine programme in the coming weeks and months.”
Dr Leyla Hannbeck, Chief Executive, Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies said:
“We are delighted to see that a number of our members have had their pharmacy-led sites approved to participate in this historic vaccination programme.
“This demonstrates the sheer determination and willingness of pharmacy teams to support the rest of the NHS to vaccinate the nation. We are confident our members will not only deliver to target but exceed the expectations with efficiency and the minimum of disruption to patients.”
Professor Claire Anderson, Chair of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society’s English Pharmacy Board, said:
“Pharmacists are playing a key role in the fight against COVID-19 and this is a welcome step towards their skills being used more widely to support vaccinations in their local communities.
“Pharmacy teams in hospital, primary care and the community are working flat out to support the nation’s health and we look forward to further expansion of the vaccination programme through pharmacy to benefit patients.”