The community pharmacy network across Northern Ireland has administered over 35,000 Covid-19 vaccines in the first six weeks of the roll-out.
Since the end of March, when 340 community pharmacies were given the green light, local pharmacies have seen a high demand for the vaccine, with many running out of their allocated supply within the first two weeks of the roll-out.
Gerard Greene, chief executive of Community Pharmacy NI, said: “Bringing community pharmacy into the Covid-19 vaccination programme has vastly improved access to the vaccine on the high streets of our towns, cities, and villages throughout Northern Ireland.
“Patients have had the option to receive their vaccine from a convenient and familiar health care professional, that they know and trust. The feedback we have been receiving is that patients really welcome the vaccine being available from pharmacies and that is tremendous endorsement for the service.
“Community pharmacies are the best places to reach the public including those in hard-to-reach communities and those in disadvantaged areas. With the level of pharmacies administering the vaccine, no eligible person should have far to travel to become protected against Covid-19.”
Local pharmacies are hoping to see a greater supply of the vaccine delivered to them in coming weeks as current levels of the AstraZeneca vaccine are low, with many community pharmacists seeing long waiting lists of patients emerging.
“Vaccine supply has been limited, and we thank the public for their patience while we wait for more supplies to be delivered. Once the supply improves, we expect numbers to grow further and are engaging with the Department of Health to ensure a greater amount of vaccine is supplied to community pharmacies,” Greene said.
“I would encourage anyone eligible to book your vaccine with your local community pharmacy.”
Community Pharmacist, Sheelin McKeagney, added: “It has been great to be able to vaccinate our own patients and the familiar faces that we see every day. We know many of our patients prefer not to travel too far to get their vaccine, particularly those in rural areas where it is just not as easy to get to larger vaccination centres.
“The one frustration has been having to turn some patients away due to the restricted amount of vaccine we have been supplied. Given our capacity to do this, we hope to see more vaccine become available in the coming weeks. We have a waiting list of people who want vaccinated by their local pharmacist and we want to fulfil that demand.
“Being part of the vaccine programme has been a real positive lift for both staff and our patients. Since the roll-out began, patients have commented that the convenience of getting the vaccine at their local pharmacy is a benefit as it means they can get vaccinated at a convenient time that suits them from a clinician they know locally. We are also delighted to be able to offer the vaccine as it means we are able to support our patients and relieve any concerns or anxieties they have.”