Black Country pharmacists call for major role in vaccine programme

Community pharmacists have urged Ministers to give them a major role in accelerating the region's Covid vaccination programme.

Pharmacists say they can play a major role in the vaccine roll out
Pharmacists say they can play a major role in the vaccine roll out

Matt Hancock has announced a rapid expansion of the vaccine roll out in a bid to ensure every adult in the country has the jab by autumn.

But community pharmacies say they are being largely ignored, despite being in prime position to deliver the AstraZeneca vaccine on a huge scale.

They say each local pharmacy could deliver up to 30 jabs a day, reducing the burden on mass vaccination hubs and helping to speed up the move towards exiting lockdown.

Pharmacists said they had been left frustrated that their expertise had been overlooked while the Government focused its attentions on opening large scale vaccination centres.

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Under plans announced by Health Secretary Mr Hancock, 2,700 sites will open across the UK, including 206 hospital sites and 50 main centres, such as Millennium Point in Birmingham, which opened yesterday.

The majority of the West Midlands' 1,300 pharmacies will play no part in the roll out, although a small number are expected to be involved on a local level.

Stephen Noble, Dudley local pharmaceutical committee chief officer, said to date only one pharmacy in the West Midlands had been approved as a major hub.

Stephen Noble, Dudley local pharmaceutical committee chief officer

He said the success of pharmacies in delivering hundreds of thousands of flu jabs in the West Midlands and Dudley's pioneering pharmacy-led community testing scheme proved that pharmacies could play a crucial role with the vaccine.

"The infrastructure is already there," Mr Noble said. "We can do this at scale and we can deliver quickly."

He added that a pharmacy-led vaccination service could cater for people reluctant to go to a major hub, and could be up and running in the region within seven days.

Mohammad Javed, who runs a pharmacy in Smethwick, said: "We are in a prime position to deal with our local communities.

"We're trusted individuals and we already have the patient base that is a target - the over 50s and vulnerable people are already coming and visiting us on a daily basis.

"We're raring to go, we're ready."

Olutayo Arikawe, director and superintendent pharmacist at Dudley's Priory Community Pharmacy, said: "We really really want to provide the service to the people, because they trust us and they don't have to walk too far to come to the pharmacy.

"They see the pharmacy as a safe place. This is a great opportunity for pharmacies to do what we do best."

The pharmacists were speaking at an online meeting organised by Birmingham MP Liam Byrne, who says he plans to push their case with Ministers.

Mr Hancock said more than 200,000 people are currently getting a Covid jab every day and that the Government is on course to reach its target of two million vaccinations a week.

He said more pharmacies were likely to be brought into the programme in the coming weeks.

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