High street pharmacies will form a major part of the “Herculean effort” to vaccinate the nation against coronavirus, the vaccines tsar has announced.
Nadhim Zahawi, the minister for Covid Vaccine Deployment, told BBC’s Today programme that community pharmacy networks will be “very much involved” in plans to vaccinate 13.4m Brits by mid-February.
Current government plans will see vaccines given to GPs to be rolled out to the public, then national vaccination centres, and then distributed across local pharmacies, Zahawi announced.
“The NHS has a very clear plan and I’m confident that we can meet it,” he said, adding that it would require a “Herculean effort” to roll out the jab to the most vulnerable in just seven weeks’ time.
It comes after ministers were yesterday accused of ignoring an army of trained vaccinators at pharmacies.
Simon Dukes, the chief executive of the Pharmaceutical Negotiating Services Committee, told the Telegraph the NHS was “scrabbling around” for vaccinators while trained medics in the pharmaceutical industry were ready to help.
There are around 11,400 pharmacies across the country that already administer millions of flu jabs every year, with the capability to vaccinate around 1.3m people against coronavirus each week.
Pharmacy giants Boots and Lloydspharmacy have previously said they are in conversation with health officials over plans to assist with vaccine distribution.
It comes after Prime Minister Boris Johnson last night announced that more than 1.3m people have already been vaccinated against Covid across the UK, including almost a quarter of all over-80s in England.
The PM said wide scale vaccine roll-out would require the combined efforts of the NHS and the Armed Forces as the government works “absolutely flat out” to vaccinate the nation before lockdown restrictions are lifted.
Professor Chris Whitty, England’s chief medical officer, said that the vaccine timetable was “realistic but not easy”.
“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,” he said.
England last night entered its third national lockdown, as ministers scramble to stamp out a new coronavirus mutation ripping across the country.
It comes after the UK yesterday recorded its highest ever daily Covid cases, after more than 60,000 people tested positive for the virus. Deaths more than doubled compared to the day before, with 830 deaths recored in the last 24 hours.