The CEO of McKesson UK has said community pharmacy could deliver over half a million of Covid-19 vaccines per week by slightly altering the current government requirements.
Toby Anderson is the latest to join growing demands from the industry to allow the UK’s network of 11,400 community pharmacies as a frontline site in the mass rollout of Covid-19 vaccines.
He argued that making “a small adjustment to the requirements” – such as lowering the need to deliver 1,000 jabs per week per site to less than half – could allow 600 LloydsPharmacy stores “easily do 150,000 vaccines a week”.
He added that this could in turn mean that the community pharmacy sector would be able to deliver more than half a million vaccinations a week, “a pretty significant contribution to the overall national effort”.
Speaking to Radio 4 on Wednesday (Jan 13), Anderson said community pharmacies provide “a lot of convenience” and are easily accessible by being within less than a 3-mile radius of every household in the country.
“That’s particularly important to those people that may find it difficult to travel or get to mass vaccination centres that are likely to be further away,” he pointed out.
Government ministers have suggested that about 200 of the country’s biggest pharmacies could be added to the vaccine rollout as it ramps up the programme but that excludes thousands of community pharmacies from a scheme the government hopes will have given out 15 million jabs by mid-February.
“Most community pharmacies are relatively small. They’re in communities. And so it’s hard to socially distance, store the medicine safely and process that large numbers of patients through a pharmacy,” Anderson conceded.
But he added: “AstraZeneca vaccine which has different refrigeration requirements” can be kept in smaller quantities in a community pharmacy, meaning they could be delivered in the same way as seasonal flu jabs.
Anderson said Lloyds have so far offered five vaccination sites of which one has already been approved by the government. He added that the multiple is “working on submitting a further five in the next day or so”.
Leaders from the sector have repeatedly iterated that community pharmacies have the capacity and are “ready, willing and able to assist with this national effort”. They have experience of vaccination programmes like winter flu jabs which have this year broken all previous records.
Sandra Gidley, president of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, has said that if each of the 11K+ pharmacies delivered 20 vaccines a day, this could mean 1.3 million extra vaccines that could be provided each week, most of which will often be to those who are hardest to reach. “Why would any government not want to do that?”
Chief executive of Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee Simon Dukes last week said: “PSNC’s ambition is for many thousands of pharmacies to be used to deliver the AstraZeneca vaccine, which is logistically more suited to community settings.”