FILE PHOTO: Syringes are seen in front of displayed Biontech and Pfizer logos in this illustration taken November 10, 2020. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo

While general practitioners have been given new guidance allowing them to use Pfizer Inc’s extra Covid-19 vaccine doses “at their discretion”, many community pharmacy contractors have submitted “hundreds of expressions of interest” to run the programme at PCN designated vaccination sites.

Incidentally, the Pfizer vaccine vials are supposed to hold five doses, according to the labelling, but media reports said pharmacists had found a way for a sixth or even a seventh dose. Without clear approval from the manufacturer, the extra dose had to be discarded however.

In a weekly webinar on Thursday (Dec 17) NHS England told GPs they could use the sixth dose “at their discretion,” following media reports that the MHRA was looking at the feasibility of getting six vaccines doses out of the Pfizer vials and was consulting with NHS about it.

Meanwhile, according to the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee, NHS regional teams are currently working with contractors that submitted proposals for areas where additional capacity is required, to assess whether the sites can be approved to participate in the vaccination programme.

It said some of the the first sites have started to vaccinate patients this week, with pharmacy contractors playing their part in supporting the wider PCN endeavour to start vaccinating the most vulnerable patients.

One of PSNC’s regional representatives and Sheffield contractor Garry Myers on Tuesday (Dec 15) started vaccinating patients, alongside colleagues at his local PCN vaccination site.

“It was great to get going with administering Covid-19 vaccines with my PCN and general practice colleagues, knowing that this will have a really positive impact for the most vulnerable patients in the community I serve,” he said.

“It is great to be one of the first community pharmacists in the world to administer the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, but I know many of my colleagues are really keen to play their part too over the coming weeks. Hopefully the practical challenges seen with the current vaccine will lessen as more vaccines are authorised for use, increasing the ability of community pharmacy teams to play a larger role in the programme.”

Others have joined Myers too, said PSNC.

Shilpa Shah, CEO of Kent LPC, mobilised five community pharmacy independent prescriber volunteers to work with and support East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust to issue patient specific directions (PSDs) for the Covid vaccine.

The independent prescribers signing these PSDs allowed the first batch of Covid-19 vaccine to be administered to patients in Kent and Medway. Feedback from the Foundation Trust was very positive, saying this work really made a difference.

Alastair Buxton, PSNC director of NHS Services, commented: “It is fantastic to see community pharmacists already playing their part in the Covid-19 vaccination programme and the many pharmacy contractors that have said they would like to run a vaccination site demonstrates the appetite of the sector to participate in the programme and help the country recover from the pandemic.

“The vaccination programme will not be without its challenges, but community pharmacists and their teams are used to overcoming hurdles to provide the best care to their patients, so we believe their skills should be used by the NHS to help administer the tens of millions of vaccinations that will be needed to help England escape from the grip of the pandemic.”

If you want to share your stories and/or experiences with us, please send an email to [email protected]