Prime Minister says 'any wastage' of coronavirus vaccine must be avoided as he is urged to 'fully mobilise the skills and expertise of community pharmacies'

Boris Johnson has said avoiding “any wastage as all” is behind the decision to not expand the coronavirus vaccine roll out to more community pharmacies at this stage.

Asked by Labour MP for Hull East Karl Turner during Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs) today why more pharmacists were not being used in the programme, Mr Johnson said they would be more vital in the next stage.

Mr Turner said: “The Yorkshire Post highlighted this week that many of the country’s 11,000 community pharmacies stand ready, willing, and able to deliver desperately needed Covid vaccines.

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“Yet his Government has seemingly shunned an army of fully trained, experienced, and registered technicians.”

He said pharmacies were “ready to play their part in the national effort” and urged the PM to “take control and fully mobilise the skills and expertise of community pharmacies to get Britain vaccinated”.

But Mr Johnson said that while pharmacies do “an amazing job”, he said: “What we want to ensure is that we get doses to the places where they’re going to be distributed most effectively, the fastest, and I’m sure [Mr Turner] would not want to see doses distributed to places - many, many places - where they might not all be used in the course of the day.

“We need at this stage to avoid any wastage at all, that’s why we’re concentrating on the 233 hospitals, 50 mass vaccination sites, 200 pharmacies already, and we will ramp that up.

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“And it will be particularly important as we come into the phase where we need to reach people who are harder to reach, in local communities. And there local pharmacies will play a vital role.”

Hull East MP Karl Turner. Photo: JPI MediaHull East MP Karl Turner. Photo: JPI Media
Hull East MP Karl Turner. Photo: JPI Media

It comes after Toby Anderson, the UK chief executive of McKesson - which runs Lloyds pharmacies - told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme pharmacies would need to be able to deliver 1,000 vaccines a week to be part of the programme.

He said: “One of the requirements from the Government has been to have 1,000 jabs per week per site, and if you think about that most community pharmacies are relatively small.”

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He said there was an argument that this limit could be lowered to 500 doses as the AstraZeneca vaccine could be kept in smaller quantities.

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“This means a company like Lloyds for example could easily do 150,000 vaccines a week from say 600 pharmacy locations around the country [...] the industry could probably do between half a million or more vaccinations a week, which is a pretty significant contribution to the overall national effort and why community pharmacy is important to the vaccination centre mix.”

He added: “On average in the UK everybody is under three miles away from a pharmacy, so it provides a lot of convenience and access to healthcare, and that’s particularly important to those people that may find it difficult to travel or get to mass vaccinations centres that are likely to be further away.”

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