HIGH street pharmacies including Boots and Superdrug are set to give Covid vaccines from next week.
As part of the Government’s bid to ramp up the roll out, the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab is to be made available from local chemists.
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It comes as the British-made vaccine was rolled out at GP surgeries today amid soaring infection rates and a record numbers of hospital patients.
On one of the darkest days of the pandemic, the UK yesterday recorded the highest daily death toll since April 21, with 1,041 lives lost to the virus.
A vaccine has long been hailed as the means to ending the crisis – and 1.3 million Brits have already received either the Pfizer or Oxford jab.
But the Government’s aim of vaccinating more than 13 million by mid-February has seen the programme ramped up on a dramatic scale.
Pharmacies have stepped in to offer shots either on their premises or at designated NHS-approved sites.
Two hundred sites led by community pharmacies such as Boots and Lloyds Pharmacy have promised to administer more than 1,000 shots each a week, the Guardian reports.
When will I get my Covid jab?
The jabs will be given to those deemed most vulnerable to the virus first – and are currently being offered to people aged over 80 in hospital, frontline health staff and care home workers.
With the roll out of the Oxford vaccine, the aim is to vaccinate every care home resident by the end of January, while all over 70s and those who are clinically extremely vulnerable by mid-Feburary.
Other priority groups will then be invited for their jabs, possibly by Easter.
The rest of the population – mainly those under 50 – will be in the second vaccination phase, but teachers transport workers and the military could be prioritised.
As soon as it’s your turn to get the vaccine, you will be invited either by phone or letter.
Once they are approved, they will start to receive doses of the Oxford jab – which is easier to administer as it can be stored at fridge temperatures.
Superdrug is also supporting the scheme with an initial five key locations in the North and South of England – and is in talks with the NHS to deliver both the Oxford and Pfizer jabs.
Michael Henry, Superdrug’s Healthcare Director, said: “We are the only high street retailer with a team of highly qualified nurses who, together with our pharmacists, have decades of experience of delivering mass vaccination services.
“Over the last nine months we have been working closely with the NHS to support its Covid 19 efforts.
“This has included our nurses volunteering in hospitals, the wider community and blood transfusion centres.
“We are now supporting the rollout of its critical vaccination programme to help people most at risk from coronavirus.”
Robbie Turner, director of pharmacy at the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, told the Guardian: “We are going to see pharmacies playing a really big role in vaccination.
“The numbers of shots that can be delivered will be significant compared with the total number being delivered from sites that are already in operation.”
It has been unclear whether high street pharmacies would be part of the Covid vaccine roll out, despite delivering millions of flu jabs every year.
The UK’s vaccine minister, Nadhim Zahawi, yesterday insisted that pharmacies would play a role but was vague on how and when.
It came after bosses of businesses including Boots and Lloyds said they were “desperate” to help alleviate the pressure on NHS medics – but admitted they’d been shunned by ministers.
Simon Dukes, chief executive of the Pharmaceutical Negotiating Services Committee, said pharmacies have the capability to vaccinate about 1.3m Brits each week.
He told the Telegraph: “We’ve been telling the NHS that we’re ready, willing and desperate to help. But we’ve been met by a de facto silence.
“We’ve got 11,400 pharmacies with at least one trained pharmacist.
“So if we vaccinated 20 people a day, that would be more than 1.3 million every week. You need the big hubs, of course you do, but we can help in a substantial way.”
Mr Zahawi was quizzed on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Wednesday over the claims chemists weren’t being made part of the roll out.
He said: “We will make sure that community pharmacies and the independent sector are involved and that we deliver what I think is a credible plan that the NHS has put together to hit that target of 13 million vaccinations … by mid-February.”
Vaccines available to the UK
THE UK government has placed orders for seven different vaccines – totalling more than 300 million jabs
- AstraZeneca/Oxford university – 100 million doses – Approved
- Pfizer/BioNTech – 40 million doses – Approved
- Janssen – 30 million doses – Phase 3 trials
- Moderna – 5 million doses – Phase 3 trials
- Novavax – 60 million doses – Phase 3 trials
- Valneva – 60 million doses – Phase 1/2 trials
- GSK/Sanofi – 60 million doses – Phase 1/2 trials
Mr Turner explained that the NHS rightly wanted to be confident that the pharmacies taking part would deliver the vaccine at scale.
However, he said smaller premises should also be considered for the programme to ensure all communities have access to jabs.
“If we’re going to reach the people we need to reach, we need to work out how we can use community pharmacies that are not necessarily able to deliver 1,000 vaccines a week, but can still offer tens of vaccines to the people in those communities,” he said.
There are more than 11,000 community pharmacies in England, 1,200 in Scotland and 700 in Wales, which could be made part of the effort.
Hospital pharmacies are already involved in administering the Pfizer and Oxford jabs, but tens of community pharmacies are expected to join the vaccination programme in the coming weeks.
As the vaccine supply improves, more pharmacies will start coming online to reach as many people as quickly as possible.
And Downing Street said yesterday that pharmacies will be involved in a seven-day-a-week vaccine programme.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “We are rolling up and ramping up the programme now… and pharmacies will be part of the vaccination programme.”
An NHS spokesperson said: “Pharmacies are already working with GPs to deliver the vaccine in many areas of the country and as more supply becomes available, community pharmacists able to administer large numbers of vaccine will be the first to play a role in the NHS’s phased vaccination programme, the biggest in the health service’s history.”
The Government has promised to deliver two million vaccines a week to lift tight new restrictions on Brits as urgently as possible.
Seven mass vaccination centres will open next week in London, Newcastle, Manchester, Birmingham, Bristol, Surrey and Stevenage.
The PM and his ministers have pinned their hopes on the approved jabs as a super-infectious mutant strain runs rampant across the UK.
It’s estimated that currently 30,000 vaccinations are being administered a day – a tenth of what will be needed to hit the Government’s target.
Asked about the timetable for the vaccine, Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty said at a press conference on Tuesday night: “The NHS is going to have to use multiple channels to get this out, but they are very determined to do this.
“But that does not make it easy.”