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Pharmacists should be aware of the end of the pandemic stage of the Covid-19 virus

Recently the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared the end of the Covid-19 as a global pandemic but cautioned countries not to be complacent.

Mon 5th June 2023 The PDA

At a media briefing in early May, WHO’s Director General, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, outlined that, “for or more than a year, the pandemic has been on a downward trend, with population immunity increasing from vaccination and infection, mortality decreasing and the pressure on health systems easing.” On the recommendation of the Emergency Committee, the Director General stated that he had accepted the advice and declared an end to Covid-19 as a public health emergency of international concern.

However, WHO were also keen to highlight that this did not mean that Covid-19 is no longer a global health threat. The virus is still claiming a life every three minutes (of those that are reported), thousands of people around the world are being treated in intensive care units, and many millions more living with lasting effects.

The PDA echoes WHO’s call for continuing vigilance around Covid-19. The PDA also emphasises the warning that the worst thing any country could do now would be to use the change of status announced as a signal to dismantle systems that have been built or give the impression to its citizens that Covid-19 is no longer a danger. The declaration does mean however, that countries should be transitioning from managing Covid-19 as an emergency to controlling it as part of their overall approach to infectious diseases.

The PDA reminds pharmacists in the UK they still need to take suitable measures to reduce infection and keep patients and themselves safe. PDA members with any concerns about employer or NHS policies around Covid-19 should contact the PDA Member Support Centre in the first instance.

Learning the lessons

Globally, many lessons have been learned around preparedness for a virus of such significant and devastating proportions, and how this manifested in responses from the science and medical communities. For example, in the development and deployment of effective vaccines. A public inquiry into the pandemic response is underway in the UK.

At the 76th World Health Assembly (WHA) held by WHO in Geneva in May, the focus has been on saving lives and driving health for all. This has included a review of WHO’s work in health emergencies and looking forward to strengthening the global architecture for health emergency preparedness, response, and resilience.

PDA Chairman, Mark Koziol was at the conference in Geneva as part of a delegation from the International Pharmaceutical Federation (FIP). In a speech to the main WHA plenary, Mark who is also the Secretary General of the European Association of Employed Pharmacists (EPhEU), said, “As we all reflect on our response to the Covid-19 pandemic, it is essential for healthcare professionals to assess what worked well and identify areas for improvement.”

Mark highlighted a FIP Bureau report which looked at the contribution of the profession to Covid-19 and called for all member states to utilise the role of pharmacy in all future public health initiatives.

The role of pharmacists

Having reflected on the recent WHO declaration, the PDA recognises that there are many lessons that have also been learned from supporting pharmacists in the UK throughout the Covid-19 pandemic. These lessons have assisted pharmacists to minimise their own risk of infection as well as playing a significant part in the response and keep medicines and healthcare available to patients.

The PDA‘s own activity supporting the profession included lobbying for pharmacists to receive keyworker status, providing proof of key worker status for locum pharmacists, calling for increased availability of PPE and guidance for those working in community pharmacies, supporting the locum pharmacist population to receive their Covid-19 vaccination as part of the health worker community, and highlighting the opportunities for all community pharmacies to be involved in the vaccinations programme. PDA Reps and members were also instrumental in tackling vaccination hesitancy as part of the PDA’s #GetVaccinated campaign.

As identified in the FIP report, it is widely recognised that pharmacists around the world have played a significant part throughout the Covid-19 pandemic. Pharmacists will continue to do so in the delivery of ongoing vaccination programmes and the management of infectious diseases and supporting those with long-term effects. As the world moves to the next phase, the PDA will continue to take opportunities to ensure that the knowledge gained around preparedness, response, and resilience is put to best use on behalf of its members.

More details about the PDA’s work during the pandemic can be found here.

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