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Home  »   Coronavirus (COVID-19)   »   Vaccinations data highlights the contribution of community pharmacy in Covid-19 campaign

Vaccinations data highlights the contribution of community pharmacy in Covid-19 campaign

In February 2021, the PDA launched 'A Thousand Little Ships', a proposal to maximise the NHS mass vaccination capability when demand was expected to dramatically increases once the second doses began. Analysis of vaccination data shows the successful contribution that pharmacists working in communities have made.

Tue 7th March 2023 The PDA

Back in early 2021, over 10 million people had received their first Covid-19 vaccination as part of the national programme. This was achieved through a huge effort by the NHS, and a repurposing of the workforce and physical spaces to meet the challenging deadline of all priority groups being vaccinated by mid-February in the race against the virus.

The PDA called for the government and the NHS to integrate over 13,500 community pharmacies into the vaccination programme to ensure that there was capacity in the system when more groups were needing to be vaccinated as they became prioritised by the JCVI.

While some larger pharmacies could provide a very high volume of vaccines to the public and were included in the current programme, the PDA proposed that the potential contribution of smaller high street and neighbourhood pharmacies should not be underestimated. Using the analogy of the thousand little ships, which played such an instrumental role in the Dunkirk evacuation during WW2, the combined contribution of many smaller pharmacies could be highly effective as well as providing choice and convenience of where patients receive their vaccination.

30 million vaccinations delivered by community pharmacy

Two years on, the PDA has been reflecting on what has happened since ‘A Thousand Little Ships‘, and the impact that the involvement of a wider network of community pharmacies has had on the vaccination programme.

The growing total of all vaccinations in England stands at over 144.5 million, with 20% of those delivered by community pharmacy. The latest figures for England show that between January 2021 and December 2022, over 30 million vaccinations have been provided by pharmacies, with independents and small chain operators delivering over 25 million (83%) of those. Large chains, also known as multiples, which constitute 46% of the UK community pharmacy market, delivered over 2.5 million. The remainder (around 1.5 million) were supplied by an online operator.

The combined impact of access, location, and trust should not be underestimated

The joint effort in delivering an unprecedented vaccinations campaign has led to a significant number of the population receiving a dose of the Covid-19 vaccine. On 31 August 2022, 70% of the people over 12 years old had received three or more doses.

With community pharmacies based in local neighbourhoods and on high streets, and with much of the population being able to walk to a pharmacy within 20 minutes, the convenience of services located where people live can drive uptake considerably and help to reduce health inequalities. The trusted relationships that the population have with their pharmacist also can help overcome vaccine hesitancy. The Edelman Trust Barometer 2022 Special Report on Trust and Health noted that trust improves vaccination rates and that almost 70% of respondents trusted pharmacists to tell the truth about health issues and how best to protect the health of the public.

Pharmacists have made a huge contribution to the vaccination programme and demonstrated the benefits of providing public health initiatives from a range of settings, including smaller, and independently owned pharmacies.

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