Following a “successful pilot”, NHS England and NHS Improvement (NHSE&I) has decided to allow all pharmacy contractors to apply to join the COVID-19 booster programme in the autumn, it said in a letter to pharmacies this afternoon (July 14).
“Pharmacy contractors can express an interest in administering 100/350/1,000 vaccinations per week, as agreed with the commissioner (NHSE&I) and subject to vaccine supply,” NHSE&I medical director for primary care Nikita Kanani and NHSE&I director of primary care vaccination Caroline Temmink wrote in the letter.
Pharmacies have until 5pm on July 28 to express an interest to join phase 3 – the booster vaccinations – of the national service, NHSE&I said.
Those that are already delivering phase 1 and phase 2 of the programme will have to resubmit their interest in phase 3, following the same instructions as the new sites – which NHSE&I attached to its letter to contractors.
Payment and remuneration for additional costs
Pharmacies will be paid £12.58 for each COVID-19 vaccination they administer.
This is the same payment that pharmacy-led sites were receiving in phase 1 and phase 2 of the programme. Initially, only those sites that could deliver 1,000 doses a week and later those who were able to do a minimum of 400 a week were invited to join.
On top of the fee per vaccination administered, pharmacies will be able to claim a £10 payment if they give the vaccine to care home staff, residents, or if the patient receives it in that setting.
Pharmacists will also be able to claim the additional £10 for each housebound patient they administer the vaccine to.
“Further additional reasonable costs funding will be available to medium and large pharmacy sites delivering COVID-19 vaccinations in phase 3,” Dr Kanani and Ms Temmink wrote.
However, “additional reasonable costs will only be approved for small community pharmacy sites by exception”, they specified.
Flu jabs… and other services?
The letter confirmed NHSE&I’s intention “to put in place arrangements to enable co-administration of flu and COVID-19 vaccines”, following the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation’s (JCVI) interim advice.
However, NHSE&I awaits the final advice from the JCVI on whether the booster COVID-19 vaccination should be the same or different dose from the first and second doses.
“Community pharmacy sites must therefore be able to receive, store, prepare and transport (where appropriate) the vaccines which are currently approved, as well as any new vaccines which may be approved in future,” Dr Kanani and Ms Temmink added.
Last month, NHSE&I announced it was also hoping that, from this autumn, people dropping into an NHS clinic or pharmacy to receive their flu vaccination or booster dose of COVID-19 jab will also be offered targeted tests, such as blood pressure, heart rhythm, and cholesterol checks.
Community pharmacy “vital” in vaccination programme
Dr Kanani and Ms Temmink acknowledged in the letter that “community pharmacy has been a vital part of this historic programme”, and extended their thanks to “all community pharmacies who have been involved in the delivery of over 67 million COVID-19 vaccinations”.
As of July 6, there are almost 700 pharmacy-led sites that are involved in the COVID-19 vaccination programme.
Earlier this month, NHSE&I revealed its intentions to commission a further 1,000 pharmacy-led COVID-19 vaccination sites in the run-up to September to help deliver booster jabs.