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 14th July 2021.
Three vaccines for COVID-19 have been authorised for use in the UK and others are in the late stages of clinical trials.
- 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.
How can community pharmacy get involved?
Community pharmacy can have a role in the COVID-19 vaccination programme in two ways:
Option 1: They work with the general practices in their PCN (or a neighbouring one) to support the PCN vaccination site and any outreach into care homes etc. necessary from that site. This could involve pharmacy contractors providing staff, under a private sub-contracting arrangement, to support the GP/PCN-led service; or
Option 2: They provide a COVID-19 vaccination service under the terms of an Enhanced service where NHSE&I want to commission that service, either because they have no existing provision in an area or they need additional provision. Such a service could be provided at a pharmacy, but a suitable off-site location may also be used. Any agreed location for provision of the service would be described as a designated vaccination site.
The NHSE&I documents, linked to in the next section, provide further information on option 2. Over 600 pharmacies are now operating as vaccination sites.
Information for contractors interested in providing a vaccination site (Phase 3 - boosters)
On 14th July 2021, NHSE&I published the following documents:
The Phase 3 service specification seeks to implement interim advice from JCVI on the potential COVID-19 booster programme. This advice suggests the COVID-19 booster vaccines should be offered in two stages from September, starting with those most at risk from serious disease and that the seasonal flu vaccine should be offered alongside the third, booster dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
The service specification for phase 3 is largely based on the current Local Enhanced Service specification for phases 1 and 2. Following a successful pilot of pharmacies administering lower volumes of vaccines, NHSE&I are now allowing contractors to express an interest in being commissioned to provide COVID-19 vaccines from a low capacity site (100 vaccination per week) in addition to the previous medium (350 vaccination per week) and large volume (1000 vaccination per week) site options.
Expressions of interest need to be submitted by 5pm on Wednesday 28th July 2021. Contractors already providing the COVID-19 vaccination service for phases 1 and 2 will also be required to express an interest in phase 3 following the same process.
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_Nfirstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
NHSE&I, DHSC, and NHS Resolution have issued a joint letter to reassure healthcare professionals and others about the indemnity arrangements that are in place to cover the COVID-19 vaccination programme.
The letter confirms that COVID-19 vaccination activity undertaken in community pharmacy will be covered by the state indemnity schemes run by NHS Resolution until the end of March 2021 (this was subsequently extended until the end of August 2021).
The indemnity arrangements apply to all staff who are employed or engaged by a community pharmacy to deliver the LES vaccination service. The arrangements will also apply in any setting used by pharmacies to deliver the programme, including in care homes or domiciliary settings.
The letter lists a number of exceptions to coverage including, for example, any non-clinical vaccination activity undertaken by staff or locally recruited volunteers in community pharmacy: this must be covered under the pharmacy contractor’s own third-party liability insurance, and NHSE&I and DHSC recommend community pharmacies put in place local volunteer agreements, if relevant.
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 initial C-19 vaccination via nhs.uk/CovidVaccination.
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_Nemail@example.com.
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: