Community Pharmacy can have ‘key clinical role’ in vaccine rollout – BMJ

Study notes that community pharmacists are a ‘highly skilled’ and trusted workforce in the fight against Covid-19

Darragh O’Loughlin, IPU

Community pharmacy has a ‘key clinical role’ to play in future Covid-19 vaccine programmes, according to research published in BMJ Open.

The PERISCOPE study – led by Aston University in Birmingham, UK and conducted in collaboration with UK and international researchers – notes that community pharmacists are a skilled clinical workforce with the potential to have an integral role in future efforts to combat Covid-19.

In the Republic of Ireland, General Secretary of the Irish Pharmacy Union Darragh O’Loughlin said that around 1200 pharmacies from his organisation have expressed interest in taking part in vaccinations. So far, the HSE has approved over 1000, said O’Loughlin, in a report by the Irish Times.

As part of the study, partners from Universities of Sheffield, Oxford, Hull and Bradford in the UK, as well as internationally, the University of British Columbia and University of Tasmania reviewed over 100 blogs, articles, and websites concerning the role of community pharmacy.

The researchers also found that community pharmacy is uniquely placed to support individuals as it is trusted by the public. This may even help address vaccine hesitancy in ‘hard to reach’ communities. They have implored decision-makers to endorse and provide their support for a clearly defined public health role for community pharmacy.

Several recommendations were made by the researchers from the findings of the study. Most significantly the group found it was imperative that policy and practice should focus on the clinical role of community pharmacy. Other recommendations included: the involvement of frontline community pharmacists in developing vaccine policy; adequate funding for reimbursement for any new services provided by pharmacies; the provision of adequate systems to deliver vaccines in a pharmacy setting.

Dr Ian Maidment, reader in clinical pharmacy at Aston University and former community pharmacist leading PERSICOPE, said: “We need to use community pharmacy to a much greater extent for COVID-19 vaccination, particularly for boosters against new variants such as the Delta (Indian) variant. The current model (for example, the large hubs) may not be sustainable in the longer term, particularly if annual COVID-19 vaccination is required.

“Our work found some key ways to make this happen. The easy access and local convenience of high street pharmacies makes them an ideal location for vaccinating at-risk populations.”

terence.cosgrave@imt.ie

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