More pharmacies located in areas where vaccine uptake is low will be added to the service “on a rolling basis over the coming weeks”, Northern Ireland health minister Robin Swann said in a statement yesterday (July 27).
Almost 350 pharmacies in Northern Ireland are currently involved in the COVID-19 vaccination service and have administered more than 115,000 doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine to those aged 40 or over.
Mr Swann said that “the additional availability of the Moderna vaccine” from selected community pharmacies will offer adults aged 18 and over the choice to get their vaccine from more locations.
He welcomed the expansion of the community pharmacy vaccination service, stating that they have “already risen to the challenge” with the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, “while continuing to provide their vital services to people in their communities at a time of immense pressure across the health and social care system”.
Cathy Harrison, Northern Ireland chief pharmaceutical officer, said: “Pharmacy teams across Northern Ireland should be very proud of the contribution they have made to the success of the COVID-19 vaccination programme. Their actions have undoubtedly saved lives.
“The deployment of the Moderna vaccine from an increasing number of community pharmacies over the coming weeks will play a vital part in our continued fight back against the virus.”
Expression of interest
Kathryn Turner, pharmacy lead for Northern Ireland Health and Social Care Board (HSCB), sent a letter to pharmacies on June 24, in which she asked them to express their interest in utilising the Moderna vaccine.
Ms Turner said in the letter that the HSCB, the Department of Health and Community Pharmacy Northern Ireland (CPNI) were “looking to explore the potential for initially 40 community pharmacies to offer a COVID-19 vaccination service using the mRNA Moderna COVID-19 vaccine”.
“This provides a great opportunity to offer an mRNA vaccine to all patients over 18 years of age, in their local communities,” Ms Turner wrote.
While the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine has been widely used in pharmacy settings, as it can be transported in conventional refrigerators between 2-8⁰C, the Moderna vaccine will arrive at pharmacies in a frozen state.
Once thawed, it is stable for 30 days when stored at 2-8°C, Ms Turner wrote in the letter.
Mr Swann said that “while the logistical challenges with the deployment of the Moderna vaccine are considerable, the number of participating pharmacies offering Moderna will continue to increase over the coming weeks and this will help many more people to come forward to access their vaccine in an easy and convenient location for them”.
Gerard Green, CPNI chief executive, said: “Community pharmacy is embedded in the heart of local communities, and this has been important in the vaccine roll out to date, providing patients with the option to receive their vaccine from a convenient and familiar health care professional, that they know and trust.”
Read about Northern Ireland’s Medicines Optimisation and Innovation Centre learnings from pharmacists during the first two months of offering COVID-19 vaccinations
What do you know about the Moderna vaccine? Read our CPD module to refresh your knowledge