Two national pharmacy organisations have welcomed the government announcement today that people aged 50 to 64 will receive their free NHS flu vaccine for the very first time from December 1.

The Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies, a membership body representing community pharmacies with multiple branches, is disappointed that the sector leadership was not “involved in the planning process”.

It’s CEO Leyla Hannbeck said December would be a difficult time for pharmacists because it is the month “when prescription volumes peak due to over prescribing”.

“The safe delivery of the service for patients is our members’ key priority and we will do the best we can during the busy period of December but the resources are limited,” Hannbeck said, adding: “We could have done much better with proper engagement as we might have been able to re-allocate some staff resource from November into December.”

The Company Chemists’ Association, a trade association for large pharmacy operators in England, Scotland and Wales, has welcomed clarity on the process for the over-50s to receive their flu vaccines.

Welcoming the government’s announcement, chief executive Malcolm Harrison said: “We have worked tirelessly this year with NHS England and other partners to remove red tape to make flu vaccinations in pharmacies easier for the public to access.

“The flu vaccination programme is a particularly important element in the response to the pandemic due to the increased risks for patients who catch both influenza and Covid at the same time.

“In addition, as other healthcare providers prepare to deliver Covid vaccinations, it is important that pharmacies can take on the additional flu vaccinations needed, to create the capacity required elsewhere in the system.

“The community pharmacy sector has proven its ability to vaccinate at scale. Community pharmacies in England have already administered more than 1.7 flu million vaccines in just the first two months of this year’s flu season, equalling the number delivered across the whole of last winter.”

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