Covid-19: ‘Chemists ready and willing to hand out vaccines’

A woman who manages a body encompassing hundreds of pharmacy outlets across Northern Ireland has added her voice to calls for local chemists to be involved in administering Covid-19 vaccines.
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Julie Greenfield made the remarks to the News Letter yesterday after Gerard Greene, the head of Community Pharmacy NI, had made similar comments about pharmacists’ willingness to throw their weight behind the Province-wide roll out.

The News Letter – along with sister newspaper titles across the UK – is pushing for the involvement of local pharmacies in doling out the vaccines, on the basis that they are convenient for many people who might struggle to travel, trusted by their regular customers, and already well-versed in the handling of vaccines for things like overseas holidays.

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Whilst the Department of Health has made some statements generally supportive of giving out vaccines at pharmacy level, when the News Letter pressed it yesterday for a timetable on doing this, it declined to answer.

The newly opened South Lake Leisure Centre in Craigavon is being used as a vaccine venueThe newly opened South Lake Leisure Centre in Craigavon is being used as a vaccine venue
The newly opened South Lake Leisure Centre in Craigavon is being used as a vaccine venue

It just reiterated its previous stance that pharmacies “will have an important part to play in the delivery of the Covid-19 vaccination programme in the coming weeks and months”.

There are roughly 2,800 pharmacists in Northern Ireland, operating out of about 550 pharmacy outlets.

Ms Greenfield is the manager of Pharmacy Forum NI, and also a practising pharmacist herself.

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The forum which she manages bills itself as the “professional leadership body for pharmacists in NI”.

Julie Greenfield is the manager of Pharmacy Forum NIJulie Greenfield is the manager of Pharmacy Forum NI
Julie Greenfield is the manager of Pharmacy Forum NI

“Provided that pharmacists are prioritised as a target group to receive the Covid-19 vaccine, there is a capacity and willingness among the profession here to support the vaccine roll-out,” she told the News Letter.

“Pharmacy is always an innovative sector and there are various mechanisms for pharmacists to be involved in the delivery of the Covid vaccination programme as they work in hospital, GP practices and also community pharmacies.

“Pharmacy Forum NI wholeheartedly calls for an expansion and acceleration of the vaccination programme and believe that community pharmacists, as a regulated profession with a proven track record in flu vaccination delivery, are well placed to help.

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“Things are moving at pace and we now await direction from the Department of Health as to how we can be involved in this urgent phase of the pandemic.”

Meanwhile, the Department of Health last night said there had been a “misunderstanding” about apparently unfilled appointments for coronavirus vaccination.

Tom Black, chairman of the British Medical Association’s NI council, said there were “thousands of empty vaccination slots throughout trusts in N Ireland”.

But the department said this is a “misunderstanding” because “these slots are only released shortly before they are available”, partly to ensure that adequate vaccine is actually available, adding: “Slots can be filled at short notice if required.”

There are two vaccines at play in the Province.

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One is from Pfizer/BioNTech. It comes in two shots, spread a minimum of 21 days, and needs to be kept at about –70C.

The other is the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine of two shots, at least 28 days apart (and it does not require such extreme cold).


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