Pharmacies able to administer 400 Covid-19 vaccines per week have been invited to apply to take part in England’s vaccination programme.
In a February 16 letter to contractors and LPCs, NHS England & Improvement said it was widening the vaccination programme to reach areas where there is “still a need for our local population”.
As well as inviting expressions of interest from more contractors who can provide at least 1,000 jabs per week, pharmacies who can meet a lower target of 400 per week may now apply.
“These sites may be considered where a site offering 1,000 vaccines per week is unlikely to be viable, or where an additional site would offer significant benefits for specific patient cohorts,” said NHSE&I.
Pharmacies must be able to open from 8am to 8pm seven days a week “if this is required” although it may be possible to agree alternative opening times with regional NHSE&I teams.
A list of priority locations has been published, with London, the South East, the South West, the Midlands, Yorkshire and the North East in particular need of more vaccination centres. The list will be updated on Friday February 19.
Contractors who meet the service requirements set out in the local enhanced service agreement (LES) and wish to express their interest must complete an online designation form by Sunday February 28.
Successful contractors will be notified by Friday March 12, with pharmacy sites chosen in this second phase expected to begin operations “during March 2021 or as vaccine supply and system need permits
Company Chemists’ Association chief Malcolm Harrison said he was “delighted” by the announcement.
He said: “This is a win-win for the public, the NHS and community pharmacies. More people will be able to receive their Covid jab close to their homes rather than having to travel up to 10 miles to visit a larger regional vaccination site.
“Easily accessible community pharmacies are particularly important for people living in less affluent areas because, sadly, we know that the established links between poverty and worse health are reflected in Covid death rates. It is therefore vital that community pharmacy teams who can provide Covid vaccines are able to do so and protect their communities.”
National Pharmacy Association chief Mark Lyonette said the move “opens the way for wider engagement, as we argued from the outset”.
“This is an example of commissioner and provider community working hand-in-hand to make things happen at scale and pace. In time, we hope to develop the opportunity still further, as the network of 11,000-plus pharmacies is an asset ready-made for an ongoing programme of vaccinations.”