COMMUNITY pharmacists across Coventry and the West Midlands are desperate to help the Covid-19 vaccination roll-out – but claim they are being ignored by the government.
Coventry North West MP Taiwo Owatemi – a former oncology pharmacist – and Liam Byrne, MP for Birmingham Hodge Hill, yesterday (Monday December 11) hosted an informative online roundtable discussion with five local West Midlands community pharmacists.
It quickly became apparent in the webinar that, if invited to assist in administering the anti-viral jabs, community pharmacists across the region could put plans into action within seven days and help boost vaccination rates by 25% in the West Midlands.
Mark Koziol, a member of the Pharmacists’ Defence Association (PDA) said it would be feasible for an individual pharmacy to vaccinate up to 20 patients a day, and chase second-injection appointments. Comparing the roll out to D-Day he said: “We need the 1000 ships approach. That’s what community pharmacy is. This is Dunkirk.”
But pharmacists feel they are are being ignored by Government. When asked by Mr Byrne: “Do you know what time you are being brought online?’ “Absolutely not”, was the consensus.
Several reasons were raised as to why community pharmacists would be well-placed to provide additional support in the national vaccination programme:
· The Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine is similar to the flu vaccine which is already administered at pharmacies and most community pharmacies already have a consultation room.
· With many people nervous about travelling long distances to major vaccination hubs like Birmingham’s Millennium Point, especially the elderly and vulnerable, community pharmacies are easily accessible on local high streets in cities, towns and villages and a familiar setting.
· Vaccine appointments could be carried out in a socially-distanced manner via a booking system in the same way as the flu vaccine, thus eliminating the need for long queues as seen in many other parts of the UK. ‘There is no way that I’m standing in a queue to get my vaccination and risk infection’ is one refrain frequently heard in community pharmacies.
Midlands pharmacist Olutayo Arikawe said: “We are willing. We are able. We are qualified. We are trained. We are trusted. We are just around the corner.”
Throughout the pandemic community pharmacists have been the only walk-in healthcare open daily to the public after many GPs went virtual. Before adequate numbers of PPE or alcoholic sanitizer, community pharmacists saw a 30% rise in visitation. As a result, many pharmacy staff became ill, some even died.
“I believe that you learn nothing unless you listen to the front line,” said Mr Byrne at the end of the meeting.
The two Labour MPs are now planning to address key issues raised in an upcoming meeting with Vaccination Deployment Minister Nadhim Zahawi MP. They would also like to petition other MPs.