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Vaccination services a shot in the arm for pharmacy

Running Your Business

Vaccination services a shot in the arm for pharmacy

Many people still don’t associate their local pharmacy with vaccinations. It’s important to raise awareness of what you offer so that you become their first choice

Among the many changes in community pharmacy services in recent years, one of the most successful is vaccination services. The Community Pharmacy England-commissioned 2023 ‘A vision for community pharmacy’ report indicates that many in the sector also support boosting pharmacy’s vaccination offer.

For example, the report suggested that community pharmacy can play a role in driving uptake of appropriate vaccination of people with COPD to reduce infective exacerbations and related emergency hospital admissions. There is increasing public awareness of the different vaccination services that pharmacies can provide, with private services like travel vaccines having become an increasingly important margin driver for many pharmacies. 

Covid-19 has brought many people into pharmacies for vaccinations too. Currently, only certain groups of people, including those aged 65 and over, qualify for a free NHS Covid vaccination, but private Covid vaccination services could be a perfect opportunity for pharmacies to add more to their service menu. 

Of course, there are practicalities to consider, such as where to source and store vaccine stock. And once the service is up and running, it has to be marketed, promoted and managed. 

Health services company Pharmadoctor is working with independent pharmacies who would like to launch a private Covid vaccination service. As of mid-April, the company said vaccination stock had been made available to more than 350 partner pharmacies, with the Novavax product coming online on April 19 with a recommended price range of £45-55 for patients. Also in April, Boots became the first pharmacy chain to announce that it would offer private Covid vaccinations, with the £98.95 price tag attracting national media attention.  

Vaccination support packages are available from Alphega pharmacy. Neil Scobie, head of Member Offer and Engagement at Alphega, says: “As the pandemic demonstrated, community pharmacists have the technical knowledge and capability to deliver large scale vaccination services to their patients and support public health initiatives. Through offering these services, pharmacies are able to take pressure off GP services and improve patient accessibility.”

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation identified an unmet public health need for RSV (respiratory syncytial virus) vaccination services, and private RSV jabs are on offer in some pharmacies to people over 60. 

With increased demand for in-pharmacy vaccination services, the news that pharmacy technicians will potentially be permitted to administer them soon may come as a relief to busy pharmacists. In March, the Department of Health and Social Care announced that technicians would be given new ‘powers’ that also include providing consultations under Pharmacy First. The changes are yet to be rolled out. 

To help pharmacy managers who might be considering offering vaccine clinics or specialised services, the Specialist Pharmacy Service has produced a guide to vaccines and immunisation services: It includes advice on issues like vaccine storage and handling, vaccine safety in breastfeeding, and specific guides to offering covid and travel immunisations. 


Most customers aren’t thinking about vaccination when they enter a pharmacy, so it’s important to raise awareness. When they do start thinking about topping up their routine jabs, your pharmacy should be the first place they consider. In addition to asking customers if they need a jab during flu season, you could put labels on prescription bags promoting the service, posters in-pharmacy, and make sure that your local GP surgeries are aware that you offer vaccination services. Drop leaflets off at GP surgery receptions and health centres too and consider offering a vaccination booking service online via your website to make it easy for time-pressed customers. 

The NHS vaccination strategy suggests that vaccination services and activities should be holistic, and offering multiple vaccinations for the whole family may be another way of improving take up. Pharmacies offering Covid and flu vaccines could use these as an opportunity to offer MMR and HPV catch up jabs too. 

Playing catch up 

With news stories in the media about the resurgence of measles in some parts of the country, pharmacies in the northwest have been proactive in offering MMR vaccines to unvaccinated children on a walk-in or GP referral basis. Dr Sakthi Karunanithi, director of public health at Lancashire County Council, says the service was designed to make it easier for parents to protect themselves and their loved ones. “We know families lead busy lives,” he says. 

National Association of Primary Care president Ash Soni suggests that in future, offering people a choice of where they receive their vaccinations will become the norm. “There are pharmacies piloting services in the north and there have also been conversations about a pilot in southeast London, but there appears to be reticence at national level to enable wider vaccination programmes,” he says. “Last year, pharmacies across London showed that they were the go-to option for childhood vaccines when they delivered the polio booster programme. I had GPs bringing their own children to me for the vaccine.” 

Soni believes there is huge potential for pharmacies to engage with wider vaccination programmes, pointing out that in many cases, the public are already choosing pharmacy as their preferred option for these services. “Despite views expressed at the UKHSA recently, I believe the public have trust and confidence in pharmacies delivering vaccinations,” he says. 

Ultimately, Soni suggests that people should be given the choice about where they receive vaccinations – and it will soon become clear what their preference is. 

In terms of offer, he encourages pharmacies to think about the opportunity and the potential value to customers as well as the commercial perspective. “Pharmacy managers need to think about how to ensure they have the right setup to deliver,” he says. “But I would challenge most pharmacies to also consider the space they dedicate to non-medicinal or health related stock and their actual ROI. This is not the same as gross or net profit as it should take into account space allocated and length of time holding stock.” 

Soni says that mainly because of Covid vaccines, half of his Streatham pharmacy now effectively acts as a vaccination centre, although its vaccination cubicles are also used for other commissioned services. “The actual return is valuable as we can use the cubicles for blood pressure checks, contraception checks and Pharmacy First as well as private services,” he explains. “We’ve reduced our OTC stock and sales are still higher.” 

Flu vaccinations, 2024-5  

It might seem early to be thinking about this year’s flu season, but evidence suggesting that the flu vaccine’s effectiveness can wane over time in adults has prompted the JCVI to advise that the NHS immunisation programme for most adults should start at the beginning of October this year. 

This is on the understanding that most vaccinations will be completed by the end of November, closer to when the flu season usually starts. For other groups of people, including pregnant women and children up to school year 11, the JCVI advises offering seasonal flu vaccinations from 1 September. Exact timings of this year’s service are, however, yet to be confirmed.

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