Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, teams of scientists across the world have been working to develop potential vaccines against the virus. Three vaccines have now been authorised for use in the UK and more are expected to follow.
Alongside vaccination centres and hospitals, Primary Care Network (PCN) and over 600 community pharmacy sites are now vaccinating patients and health and care workers against coronavirus.
This page provides a summary of the current situation, but plans for the vaccination programme are evolving, including with planning for a possible booster programme in the autumn.
Page last updated 18th December 2021.
Three vaccines for COVID-19 have been authorised for use in the UK.
- GOV.UK: Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine for COVID-19 approved by MHRA
- GOV.UK: Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine for COVID-19 approved by MHRA
- GOV.UK: Moderna vaccine for COVID-19 approved by MHRA
The characteristics of the vaccines vary and their distribution and use needs to be carefully controlled to maintain efficacy and ensure there is minimal wastage.
The quantity of vaccine available at any one time has an impact on how they are used, in line with the prioritisation guidance issued by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI).
In England, there are three types of vaccination site:
- Vaccination centres, using large-scale venues, such as football stadiums and accessed by a national booking service;
- Hospital hubs, using NHS Trusts across the country; and
- Local vaccination services (LVS), made up of sites led by general practice teams working together in Primary Care Networks (PCN) and community pharmacy sites.
The Government’s overall plan for the COVID-19 vaccination programme is set out in its UK COVID-19 vaccines delivery plan.
The information below is aimed at community pharmacy contractors and their teams.
Information for contractors interested in providing a vaccination site
Around 1500 pharmacies are currently providing a vaccination site under the terms of an Enhanced service. The service may be provided at a pharmacy or a suitable off-site location. Any agreed location for provision of the service is described as a designated vaccination site.
During the course of the pandemic, NHSE&I have undertaken several rounds of expressions of interest (some coordinated at a national level and some locally), where pharmacy contractors could put their pharmacies forward for designation as a vaccination site. The last national round commenced on 14th July 2021, with NHSE&I publishing the following documents:
Expressions of interest had to be submitted by 5pm on Wednesday 28th July 2021.
Further information on the service is available on the NHSE&I website and on the FutureNHS platform (login required). If you do not have access to the FutureNHS platform, you can register using an NHS or similar professional email address by emailing P_C_Nemail@example.com.
Considerations for contractors on providing a vaccination site
PSNC undertook work with the other national pharmacy bodies and NHSE&I to identify some of the issues that any pharmacy contractor planning to apply to be a COVID-19 vaccination centre needs to consider. This work drew upon the early experience of contractors who had already set up pharmacy LVS and it is informing ongoing discussions with NHSE&I about how a larger number of pharmacies could safely participate in the vaccination programme.
The clear message from contractors already providing COVID-19 vaccination services is that this is not the same as flu vaccination – it is more complex, but pharmacies can provide a high quality COVID-19 vaccination service with appropriate planning and organisation.
The key areas identified so far that require consideration before applying to be a vaccination centre are detailed in a joint document developed by the national pharmacy bodies, and they include:
- Suitability of the location of the pharmacy or vaccination site for easy patient access, including availability of car parking and public transport links, disabled access, and toilet facilities;
- Sufficient space to maintain social distancing (in addition to any existing pharmacy activity) and to allow easy entry and exit from the building for vaccination patients;
- Sufficient space for the administration of vaccines, e.g. second consultation room or areas within the pharmacy which can be screened off for sole use in the vaccination service;
- Clear signage and marked pathways to guide patients, with staff or volunteers allocated to marshalling duties;
- Space to allow for a 15-minute patient observation, when this is required;
- Existing risk assessments will need to be updated and new ones developed for the new activity. Existing standard operating procedures may need to be updated and new ones will need to be developed for the vaccination service. Additionally, business continuity plans will need to be updated to ensure the normal work of the pharmacy and the vaccination service can both be sustained;
- Adequate fridge space and the ability to ensure the security of stored vaccine;
- Storage space for personal protective equipment and for clinical waste created by the vaccination service and awaiting collection;
- Updated infection control procedures, cleaning rotas and availability of hand washing and sanitising facilities for staff and patients;
- A clear understanding of the legal route which will be used for vaccination (PGD or national protocol) and the operational consequences of this;
- Availability of additional staff (over and above the normal staffing contingent) to operate the vaccination service, all with appropriate training completed and competence evidenced. Staffing plans need to recognise the need for maintenance of the service over a long period and sustainability of staffing plans needs to account for the need for staff leave, illness etc. Ensure staff workloads and pressures have been considered and mitigated, including ability to have sufficient breaks (mental and physical) and access to additional wellbeing support, such as those provided by the NHS;
- The need for local processes to minimise the wastage of vaccine, e.g. having reserve lists of patients that can attend for vaccination at short notice;
- Ability to support patients with additional needs, e.g. accessible information, staff members with language skills relevant to the local population; and
- Availability of adequate IT infrastructure and equipment, e.g. Wi-Fi, tablet devices.
Vaccination of pharmacy staff
Community pharmacy staff are within the category of frontline health and social care staff eligible for a coronavirus vaccination and as such were a priority for early vaccination.
All adults can book their C-19 vaccination via nhs.uk/CovidVaccination.
COVID 19 Vaccination requirements when working or deployed in care homes
The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has published guidance on regulations which make COVID-19 vaccination a requirement for people working or deployed in care homes; the regulations came into force on 11th November 2021.
The guidance applies to community pharmacy contractors who are providing services to care homes, for example, providing a locally commissioned service or delivering medicines to care homes.
The guidance provides information on demonstrating evidence of vaccination, medical exemptions and guidance for visiting professionals, as well as requirements when making deliveries to care homes.
Following on from the announcement that the Department of Health and Social Care has published guidance on new regulations which make COVID-19 vaccination a requirement for people working or deployed in care homes from 11th November 2021, NHSE&I wrote to NHS staff, including community pharmacy contractors, on how this will be delivered operationally.
The following links provide access to further information on the vaccination programme.
COVID-19 vaccination programme hub (FutureNHS collaboration platform)
If you do not have access to the platform, you can register using an NHS or similar professional email address by emailing P_C_Nfirstname.lastname@example.org.
A COVID-19 vaccination training slide set, e-learning programme, vaccinator training requirements and a vaccinator competency assessment tool have also been published and they can be accessed from the following GOV.UK hub page: