Labour leader Keir Starmer looks on as Melvin Allanson receives the first of two vaccination shots at the NHS vaccination centre in Robertson House, in Stevenage, Britain on January 14, 2021 (Leon Neal/Pool via REUTERS)

Community pharmacy teams across the country are facing tremendous work pressure, therefore a responsibility to provide a 24-hour, 7-day a week NHS vaccination service against Covid-19 is really a challenge for them, the Royal Pharmaceutical Society has said.

The RPS statement follows Labour leader Keir Starmer’s call on Wednesday (Jan 13) urging the government to deploy all community pharmacies to deliver a 24/7 Covid vaccination by the end of next month.

His statement to consider a 24/7 approach to boost the national vaccination programme is aimed at matching the nation’s ambition to become the first country in the globe to roll-out the vaccine to its entire population.

Commenting on Starmer’s call to deploy pharmacies to deliver a 24/7 vaccination programme, RPS president Sandra Gidley, said:  “We all want to see priority groups, including pharmacists and their teams, vaccinated as quickly as possible, but providing a 24/7 NHS vaccination service would be very challenging.

“Many thousands of NHS workers are ill with Covid or self-isolating, so staffing round-the-clock vaccinations would be an issue. The staff we do have are already working flat out and facing stress and burnout. Bringing more community pharmacies into the vaccination programme as it rolls out to increase capacity would seem a more logical option.”

Starmer further noted: “England’s 11,500 community pharmacies should be at the centre of the 24/7 programme so to guarantee vaccines can be delivered on every high street across the country”.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson also told parliament on Wednesday that the UK was targeting a 24/7-day a week vaccination programme “as soon as possible” as it sought to inoculate 15 million people by mid-February.

Commenting on the ongoing Covid-19 vaccination, Gidley further added: “RPS and other pharmacy organisations are working together with the government to progress the role of community pharmacists in the Covid vaccination programme. It’s great news that a small number of large sites run by community pharmacies are opening… and that two hundred are due to come online over the next fortnight.

“As the vaccination programme rolls out, it’s eminently sensible to include more pharmacies where possible to increase the numbers of people who can get vaccinated. Local pharmacies are trusted by their communities and often at the heart of deprived areas where we face some of the biggest health challenges of all.”

According to official figures Britain has administered 2.6 million first Covid-19 vaccine doses so far, and health secretary Matt Hancock has said Britain is on track to meet its target and manufacturers were delivering on schedule.

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