Inside a community pharmacy as they join the Covid-19 vaccination effort


They have been described as the “forgotten front line” in the war on the pandemic.

But now community pharmacy staff have joined the coronavirus vaccination effort to help Wales achieve herd immunity as quickly as possible.

Unlike mass vaccination centers and, to some extent, general practitioners’ offices, pharmacies are more familiar on the shopping streets and are a place where people feel more comfortable.

The goal is for these backgrounds, if any, to deliver jabs to younger adult cohorts, but also to pick up those from priority groups one through nine that may have slipped through the net.

According to the latest figures from the Welsh government, 15 pharmacies across Wales are currently receiving doses of the vaccine by their respective boards of health to administer to patients.

One of them is Central Pharmacy in Roath, Cardiff, which began its own rollout on Friday April 16, much to the delight of its owner Raj Aggarwal.

The Wellfield Road Pharmacy has a dedicated vaccinator delivering up to 50 AstraZeneca vaccines per day to a private room on the first floor.

A list of people who have booked through the Cardiff portal and the Vale University Health Board are invited to attend and receive their first of two doses.

Raj Aggarwal is the owner of Central Pharmacy in Roath, Cardiff

“We are so lucky to be doing it here because we are at the doorstep of the community,” said Mr. Aggarwal, who received an OBE for his pharmacy, Asian community and charity services in 2007.

“They can just come in, get vaccinated and talk to our staff who many already know very well. It is very comfortable and very accessible.

“And people trust us. We have received many questions from our customers regarding the Covid vaccine and we have been able to discuss with them issues such as the risk of clotting and what is in it.

“We got to tell them what the pros and cons are and why they should have it – but the final decision is up to them.”

Central Pharmacy, in Wellfield Road, Roath, administers Covid-19 vaccines
Central Pharmacy, in Wellfield Road, Roath, administers Covid-19 vaccines

Towards the start of the pandemic, Mr Aggarwal said there had been a “sudden increase” in the number of people visiting the pharmacy to stock up on health items.

He admitted that a huge amount of time had been spent trying to get hold of the drugs, with staff having to buy more at a cost higher than what the NHS reimbursed.

“In a very short time, we started to run out of items like soaps and hand gels and common medications such as paracetamol and ibuprofen. In response, we had to start rationing these items so that we can make existing stocks last longer, ”he recalled. .

“We did not receive any personal protective equipment (PPE) by the health service but were able to purchase it at exorbitant prices to protect the staff.”

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He said that while there was a lot of frustration and tension among customers during the first wave, which led to some pharmacy staff being abused, things have now started to ease. and people’s fears have now turned to hope – and even joy.

“When they come for the vaccine, they are absolutely delighted with the experience they get. It is just delicious,” he added.

“They all come out with a smile on their face. There was a client on Monday who was so happy they were taking pictures of themselves and sending them all over the world.

“As he was going out he said ‘I had platinum service’ and he would never forget the experience.”

One of the goals of the deployment in pharmacies is to reach people from ethnic minorities where attendance has generally been lower. Central Pharmacy, based in the heart of a vibrant and diverse community in the Welsh capital, is ideally located to immunize these segments of society.

“Members of ethnic minority communities are now coming forward for vaccination because those fears are no longer there. The more we can vaccinate – from any cohort – is great news as it is the only way out of this. terrible pandemic. “

But Mr Aggarwal admitted that due to their more limited space, some community pharmacies would play a smaller, but nonetheless important part of the rollout.

He added, “The community pharmacies that have offered to do it will do it right and with the right resources. They will also ensure that it does not affect the day-to-day functioning of the pharmacy either. It is the most important. thing.”

Although the deployment of the vaccine in pharmacies is still in its infancy, more than 3,000 jabs have been administered to date.

Louise Allen, community pharmacy manager for Cardiff and Vale University Health Board, said while only three pharmacies in the area were currently on board, more were likely to follow.

She added that the health council’s online “Leave No One Behind” form, which is dedicated to all priority groups one to nine who have not yet received their vaccine, gives people the opportunity to get their dose at a community pharmacy.

“As we progress through the program, we will look to integrate more sites,” she said.

“We’ve written to all of the community pharmacies asking if they would be interested, and then it’s a matter of looking at each one, their capabilities and the facilities they have in place – whether it’s ” good access, appropriate parking or being located in a particular area where we have concerns [around take-up].

“There are no targets for pharmacies. It depends on the capacity they have to offer and what we have as a board of health. The amount of vaccine they can deliver will be different. ‘one pharmacy to another. “

Ed Nation, who falls into the 30-39 age group and was getting vaccinated at the central pharmacy on Wednesday afternoon, said there were some advantages to having a vaccination site on Main Street.

Ed Nation having his AstraZeneca Covid vaccine
Ed Nation having his AstraZeneca Covid vaccine

“It was extremely convenient. I could just get on my bike, use the bike paths and get there. It was very simple.

“I couldn’t wait to get the vaccine. It gives me a lot more reassurance to go out and not be hurt if I get infected.

“I have been forced to work from home throughout the pandemic which has been quite painful. I can’t wait to get back to normal and see my friends again, as many of them live in England.”

Aneurin Bevan UHB – 3

Betsi Cadwaladr UHB – 5

Cardiff and Vale UHB – 3

CWM Taf Morgannwg UHB – 1

Hywel Dda UHB – 0

Swansea Bay – 3

Total – 15

How many vaccines administered by pharmacies: 3,201 to date

The latest figures from Public Health Wales show 1,727,455 people received the first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine and 635,655 people received both doses.

It is the highest amount of doses per person in the UK and the third in the world.

Rhodri Thomas, Community Pharmacy for Wales, said mass vaccination centers and general surgeries have worked very well in crossing people in Wales.

Rhodri Thomas from <a class=Community Pharmacy Wales” content=””/>
Rhodri Thomas from Community Pharmacy Wales

“Community pharmacies are now coming on stream to complement them and reach out to vulnerable patients who may not be confident enough to go to a mass vaccination center. We are ideally placed to serve these patients in the community, ”he said.

“Would we have liked to be involved earlier? Maybe, but the reality is that the availability of vaccines and the ability of mass vaccination centers to deliver has exceeded expectations.”

Mr Thomas added that pharmacies are very experienced in delivering vaccines through the annual flu shot and injections for overseas travel.

He said much of the workforce had “risen to the challenge” of a new way of working with social distancing, PPE and now the immunization program in place.

“We are really proud of our colleagues across the community pharmacy network in the way they have adjusted.

He added that even though he “didn’t have a crystal ball,” he was convinced that we had seen the worst this pandemic has to offer.

“For the moment, with the best will in the world, I hope that we do not have a third wave but it is not to exclude an aberrant mutation of the virus. We have already seen that it mutates but touches wood the vaccine is still effective against those who have looked up.

“We have to be vigilant. We have to be careful. That is why we continue to encourage all eligible patients to access the vaccine as we have yet to reach the level of herd immunity. We are not there yet.”


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