HIGH street pharmacies WILL help with the Covid vaccine rollout, the vaccine minister insisted today, after chiefs said their offers of assistance were snubbed.
Minister Nadhim Zahawi insisted this morning that pharmacies would play a roll in the dishing out of the jabs – but was vague on when and how this would happen.
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Pharamacy groups said last night they had offered to give a million Covid jabs a week – but say they’ve been shunned by ministers, despite the race to vaccinate all adult Brits.
Boris Johnson has vowed that more than 13million of the UK’s most vulnerable will have had their jab by mid-February amid concerns the new national lockdown could stretch on for months to come.
Bosses of businesses including Boots and Lloyds claim they’re “desperate” to help alleviate the pressure on NHS medics – but say they’ve been spurned by the Government.
This morning Mr Zahawai was quizzed on why they weren’t involved, but he insisted they would be.
He told Radio 4: “We will make sure that community pharmacies and the independent sector are involved and that we deliver what I think is a credible plan that the NHS has put together to hit that target of 13 million vaccinations … by mid-February.”
He also insisted that PHE would work Sundays too to give out the jab if that was what was needed to achieve the rollout goal.
An NHS spokesperson said today: “Pharmacies are already working with GPs to deliver the vaccine in many areas of the country and as more supply becomes available, community pharmacists able to administer large numbers of vaccine will be the first to play a role in the NHS’s phased vaccination programme, the biggest in the health service’s history.”
Previously there had been a limit for smaller pharmacies to have to deliver at least 1,000 jabs a week – which may have excluded some.
It came as:
- England entered another lockdown – with schools shut and people told to stay at home
- MPs will vote on the tough new measures later – and Boris will face down Tory lockdown-sceptics
- International travellers are set to be told to have a negative coronavirus test to get into the UK as Britain toughens up its borders
- Hospitals continued to get busier as the NHS was just weeks from being overwhelmed
- One in every 50 Brits now has coronavirus as a rampant mutated strain takes hold across the UK
- A-Level and GCSE exams this summer have been cancelled, with Gavin Williamson to make a statement to MPs today
And he promised that the Government’s new strategy to give out as many first doses as possible was the right one – and would save lives.
However, despite Mr Johnson’s pledge to use “every second” to put an “invisible shield” around the nation’s most vulnerable, pharmacies claim their offers to support the NHS have been ignored.
Ministers have been urged to deploy an army of trained vaccinators at pharmacies to help deliver the jabs rather than relying on GPs, nurses and retired volunteers, the Telegraph reports.
And Simon Dukes, chief executive of the Pharmaceutical Negotiating Services Committee – which represents high street pharmacies during talks with the Government – has demanded answers over why the NHS is “scrabbling around” for vaccinators despite the offers of support.
Mr Dukes told the paper around 11,400 pharmacies across the country already administer flu jabs every year.
And the stores have the capability to vaccinate about 1.3m Brits each week, he said.
The Government has promised to deliver two million vaccines a week to lift tight new restrictions on Brits as urgently as possible.
Under the current lockdown, which will go before Parliament today, household mixing is banned, non-essential shops have been shuttered and international arrivals must test negative for Covid 72 hours before passing through British airports.
The PM and his ministers have pinned their hopes on the approved jabs as a super-infectious mutant strain runs rampant in every region of England.
Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty today revealed that one in every 50 Brits now has coronavirus, while hospital admissions are 40 per cent higher than at the peak of the first wave in April 2020.
However, it’s estimated that currently 30,000 vaccinations are being administered a day – a tenth of what will be needed to hit the Government’s target.
Mr Dukes told the publication: “Rather than scrabbling around trying to find retired GPs and nurses and anyone who has possibly dated skills, you’ve got an army of thousands of pharmacists up and down the country who administer the flu jab every winter.
“We’ve been telling the NHS that we’re ready, willing and desperate to help. But we’ve been met by a de facto silence.
“We’ve got 11,400 pharmacies with at least one trained pharmacist.
“So if we vaccinated 20 people a day, that would be more than 1.3 million every week. You need the big hubs, of course you do, but we can help in a substantial way.”
Asked about the timetable for the vaccine, Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty said at a press conference on Tuesday night: “The NHS is going to have to use multiple channels to get this out, but they are very determined to do this.
“But that does not make it easy.”
Meanwhile, the paper reported too that Covid vaccines won’t be delivered to medics on Sundays.
Public Health England (PHE) officials won’t work one day a week, according to leaked documents.
New guidance issued to NHS Trusts warn the jabs won’t be issued on Sundays or after agreed ‘cut-off points’ every lunchtime – even if supplies run low.
However, tonight Michael Brodie, interim chief executive of PHE, told The Sun: “We run a seven-day-a-week service and have fulfilled 100 per cent of orders from the NHS on time and in full – with routine next-day deliveries six days a week as agreed with the NHS and the capability to send orders on Sundays if required.
“We are working around the clock to distribute millions of doses all over the UK and can deliver as much available vaccine as the NHS needs.”
Mr Zahawi told LBC today: “They will work whatever days we need them. Public Health England will make sure that happens. Every single day, every vaccine delivery that we request will happen.”
The private sector has mobilised to support the NHS with the vaccination programme.
Hundreds of Best Western hotels could be turned into ‘cottage hospitals’ to ease the strain.
Plans sent to the Cabinet Office this week reveal the sites would handle everything from pre-surgery assessments to IV treatments, such as dialysis, as well as MRI and CTI scans and post-Covid recovery support.
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Meanwhile, pub and bar companies including Young’s, Marston’s and cafe-bar chain Loungers say they’ll offer their sites as jab centres amid the Government’s vaccine roll-out.
And Boots will initially open three jab sites in Halifax, Huddersfield and Gloucester to start giving the jabs.
A Tesco subsidiary which normally supplies restaurants has already offered up its network of refrigerated lorries and warehouses to help transport vaccines.
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