High street pharmacies to offer Oxford Covid vaccine next week

High street pharmacies will begin offering the coronavirus vaccine next week to help in the push to immunise more than 13 million of the UK’s most vulnerable people by mid-February. Around 200 pharmacies are being lined up by NHS England to deliver the OxfordAstraZeneca jab as part of the government’s vaccination expansion plan, The Independent understands. The NHS is currently assessing the facilities run by Boots and high street firms – either on their premises or at specially-designated sites – so the Covid-19 vaccine can be delivered and the roll-out widened.

Boots has already confirmed it has set up three dedicated vaccination sites in Halifax, Huddersfield and Gloucester, and said it could make more sites available soon. “We stand ready to do much more, and our national network of pharmacy expertise is prepped to support the NHS and the government to accelerate the roll-out of the vaccine,” a spokesperson said.  It comes as GP surgeries join the mass rollout of the Covid vaccine on Thursday, after the vaccine was approved for use outside of hospitals by the UK’s four chief medical officers.

Doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca jab have been sent out to around 200 GP-led facilities across the country. Dr Nikki Kanani, NHS medical director for primary care, said: “Combined with the arrival of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, we will now be able to protect many more vulnerable people against the virus and faster.” People put forward for the jab in a community setting will be contacted by their GP. The Independent understands they will be told to contact their local vaccine centre – including surgeries and available pharmacies – to make an appointment for the jab. 

The NHS is currently assessing around 200 community pharmacies which have met the criteria of delivering more than 1,000 vaccine doses each week, and some of them are expected to begin vaccinating next week.

However, the Royal Pharmaceutical Society is among the groups urging the government and NHS to speed up the roll-out by approving thousands of smaller high street pharmacies as vaccination sites. President Sandra Gidley said smaller branches “ready, willing and able” to assist – estimating that the nation’s 11,000 pharmacies could feasibly dole out 1.3 million doses per week. Ms Gidley added: “There are a lot of pharmacies out there who want to be part of the process, so it makes sense to make use of the capacity.

It’s a ready-made army of vaccinators.”

Simon Dukes, chief executive of the Pharmaceutical Negotiating Services Committee – the body in discussions with government on expanding approval – said many more pharmacies could be used.

“You’ve got an army of thousands of pharmacists up and down the country who administer the flu jab every winter,” he told The Daily Telegraph. “We’ve been telling the NHS that we’re ready, willing and desperate to help.”

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