Yorkshire clinicians weigh up need for pharmacies to help with vaccinations

Yorkshire clinicians have continued to weigh up the need for pharmacies in the region's coronavirus vaccination efforts.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has set an ambitious target of having 14 million people vaccinated against Covid-19 by mid-February.

As major hubs open up, calls have been made for the country's 11,000-plus pharmacies to assist in the efforts for people who are less mobile, a plan backed by Royal Pharmaceutical Society president Sandra Gidley.

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Some regional health leaders continued to support the move, while others cast doubt on whether pharmacies are actually the best places to carry out mass vaccination programmes.

There have been called for more pharmacies to be used for Covid-19 vaccinations.

Leeds GP Dr Richard Vautrey, chairman of the British Medical Association's General Practitioners Committee, believes general practices are better placed for community vaccinations should they get the supply they need, adding that many pharmacies are not big enough for large group vaccinations to take place with social distancing.

He told The Yorkshire Post: “At the moment there is no shortage of vaccinating teams or ability in general practice to do this, the problem is supply of the vaccine.

"GP sites across the region want to do more but are limited by insufficient supplies.

"I think we need to focus on supporting them as much as possible in the coming weeks, ensure they get consistent and large supplies so there is no confusion and patients can get access to vaccinations in their local community.

“If practices are given the vaccine they will vaccinate their patients as they want to protect their most vulnerable patients as quickly as possible.

“In addition many community pharmacies are not often large enough to enable large group vaccinations to take place with appropriate social distancing, so surgeries and health centres are generally needed for this to be done.”

Dr Abbie Brooks, GP and partner with the Priory Medical Group in York, has been volunteering to give vaccinations in the city's hub.

She told the YP that pharmacies could be used in the vaccination efforts but deliveries can be unpredictable and there are other practical concerns such as temperature conditions and the 15-minute monitoring period after a recipient has been jabbed.

“The ideal scenario is that we would be able to roll it out at surgeries and pharmacies but it’s just not realistic at this stage,” she said.

“This [in hubs] is the only way we can offer the safe vaccine.”

She said that clinicians were aware that it seemed counter-intuitive to bring “92-year-old frail individuals across the city” to hubs at more exposed risk and difficulty but said “it’s so important to get these patients vaccinated” - and the sooner the better.

Dr Brooks said that pharmacists could get involved in the roll-out at its current locations.

She also described her feelings at being able to provide the vaccine.

In a blog post at the weekend, Dr Brooks said: “I have attended a few vaccination clinics now, and they have all been so good for the soul. I work as a GP in a large practice and these past 10 months have been the hardest and busiest I have ever known.

"Knowing that every vaccine I give could make a difference to that individual and family’s life is just the best feeling. The more vaccines we give, the closer we are to being able to see and hug our loved ones. Seeing and talking to patients in the 80+ age category, many of which haven’t been out since March, is such a privilege."

Speaking to the Yorkshire Post, Royal Pharmaceutical Society president Sandra Gidley said yesterday: “There are over 11,000 pharmacies. If each of those does 20-a-day that is 1.3 million-a-week extra vaccines that can be provided, very often to those who are hardest to reach.

“Why would any government not want to do that?”

And care home owner Mike Padgham, Chair of the Independent Care Group North Yorkshire, backed the calls for pharmacies to be involved in the roll-out.

He said: “The government have promised all care home residents and staff will be vaccinated by the end of January, that’s quite an ambitious ask as there are over 400,000 residents in care homes.

“It seems to me as many people who are qualified get involved in the programme to get vaccines rolled out. It makes sense that pharmacies should be involved so all those priority groups can be vaccinated as quickly as possible.

“Everybody should be taking part if they’re qualified. Especially for the older and vulnerable, travelling a long way in the winter isn’t easy, particularly if they’ve not got their own transport. From my point of view, pharmacies seem an excellent option.

“All hands to the pump, the more help the better!”