COVID-19 infection control could cut community pharmacies’ capacity for flu vaccinations by two-thirds

Until specific guidelines are provided, pharmacies will not know how much vaccine stock they will need to order ahead of the 2020/2021 flu season.

Community pharmacies may have only a third of their previous capacity to administer flu vaccines during the winter of 2020/2021 thanks to COVID-19 infection control measures, the head of vaccination said in pharmacy in London.

Talk to The Pharmaceutical JournalRekha Shah, chief executive of the local pharmaceutical committee for Kensington, Chelsea and Westminster, said the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic will likely require pharmacists to change their aprons and gloves “at a minimum” between patients when vaccinating against influenza.

“Then you will need to disinfect the surfaces between [vaccinating] patients,” she said, adding that the time needed to do so “means that our capacity could be reduced in terms of the number of people we can vaccinate in a day, compared to what we were doing before.”

“Say you were going to make 50 [flu vaccinations per day] – we’re talking about a third of that,” she said, adding that the numbers would depend on government requirements for the service.

His comments come as the Pharmacy Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) said pharmacies should expect ‘greater demand’ for flu shots in winter 2020/2021 from all cohorts eligible.

In May 2020, the government declared in a letter to community pharmacies that he was considering widening the eligibility criteria for the NHS-funded flu vaccination program in 2020/2021 and warned of the likelihood of “co-circulation of COVID-19 and influenza “.

Shah said a second peak of COVID-19 would mean “no chance of getting [flu] vaccinations done too” and added that pharmacies are still waiting for more details on how the flu vaccination program will take place in 2020/2021.

“Until we get more information about the service specifications – the expectations and the funding – it’s very, very difficult to tell our pharmacies what they need to start making and ordering,” said she declared.

While consulting rooms would typically have been cleaned between patients during a vaccination clinic, Shah said she expected to have to take “far above normal” disinfection measures, including using “foggers” which spray solutions of hypochlorous acid.

Shah said a fogger for a consulting room should cost around £1,000 and called for the cost of these types of disinfection measures to be included in the funding for the scheme.

Nat Mitchell, pharmacist and manager of JWW Allison and Sons Pharmacy in Cockermouth, Cumbria, said he was ‘still undecided on how we are going to proceed’ with flu vaccinations.

“I thought about insisting that patients wear masks, which I believe they should provide themselves unless there is funding and/or a path to a reliable supply chain. given to the pharmacy,” he said, adding that he would wear his own personal mask. protective equipment (PPE).

“I would like to see more flexibility in the regulations to allow us to innovate a bit more,” he added. “It’s in regards to the paperwork and location of the service being streamlined [or] a little relaxed. »

Simon Dukes, chief executive of the PSNC, said uptake of the influenza vaccine among eligible cohorts “will be greater because of the awareness of how communicable diseases and influenza can affect society.” .

“Inevitably we will see greater demand,” he said. “But the challenge for community pharmacy is – in our business model – how do we get there?”

Allowing patients to go to a community pharmacy for a flu shot at their convenience “has its challenges in a world where a pharmacist has to put on PPE to vaccinate, then probably take the PPE off to do their other duties, to then retained to carry out another vaccination”.

“We need to think about our model and how we can vaccinate more at scale to ensure that we participate as fully as possible in a vaccination program that will inevitably be larger than usual,” Dukes said, adding that the PSNC is in talks with NHS England on the direction of the profession “and, of course, on the financial aspects as well”.

The Pharmaceutical Journal approached NHS England for comment.

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