Community pharmacies can play a ‘key clinical role’ in any future Covid-19 vaccination programmes as they are uniquely placed and seen by the public as ‘credible and trustworthy’, a recent study has concluded.

Research led by Aston University, in collaboration with UK and international researchers, found that community pharmacists can also work with ‘hard to reach’ communities on concerns around vaccine safety.

Community pharmacists are ‘skilled clinical workforce’ who can contribute by supporting the community in which they serve – by playing a critical role in vaccination campaigns related to ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

The researchers working on the ‘Peirscope study’ published their findings in BMJ Open. They are calling on decision-makers to endorse and provide their support for a clearly defined public health role for community pharmacy with this new report.

The study included partners from the universities of Sheffield, Oxford, Hull and Bradford in the UK, as well as the University of British Columbia and University of Tasmania.

The group reviewed more than a hundred documents including peer reviewed articles, blogs and websites on the role of community pharmacy during the current and other previous pandemics.

Their findings were discussed with more than 30 health professionals, including pharmacists, pharmacy technicians, dispensers, counter assistants, and GPs, and ethically diverse members of the public, to ensure that the findings made sense in the real world.

Study lead Dr Ian Maidment from Aston University, said: “We need  to use community pharmacy to a much greater extent for Covid-19 vaccination, particularly for boosters against new variants such as the Delta variant. The current model (for example, the large hubs) may not be sustainable in the longer term, particularly if annual Covid-19 vaccination is required.

“Our work found some key ways to make this happen. The easy access and local convenience of high street pharmacies makes them an ideal location for vaccinating at-risk populations.”

Alastair Buxton, director, NHS Services at PSNC said: “This research provides a timely examination of the role community pharmacy teams have played in supporting their communities to fight back against Covid-19. Community pharmacies have substantially increased the number of flu vaccinations administered and played a key part in the Covid-19 vaccination programme.

“These findings will help guide policy in the later stages of the pandemic and guide practice in any future pandemics.”

The study was jointly funded by UK Research and Innovation and the National Institute for Health Research.

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