Pharmacy doors remained open throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Pharmacists quickly stepped up to assume a role in the National Vaccination Plan. Two community pharmacists share their perspectives.
Séamus Burke MPSI
Pharmacist, Haven Pharmacy Burke’s,
Macroom, Co. Cork
Pharmacies step up
Pharmacy teams have shown consistent dedication, determination and flexibility since the outbreak of COVID-19. Members of the Haven and totalhealth Pharmacy groups benefitted from the assistance of our support office in meeting the challenges of the pandemic, enabling us to focus on our patients’ needs, including COVID-19 vaccination.
Despite proving an effective resource in community vaccination programs, pharmacy involvement in the COVID-19 roll-out came later than expected. Throughout months of uncertainty about what role we would play, we prepared ourselves with additional vaccine training and pharmacy refits to facilitate vaccine clinics. Our support office assisted with procedures and policies, patient communication, and online registration.
Waiting lists can total thousands, with many patients registering with multiple locations.
Our vaccine service is well underway, though it has not been without challenge: delivery delays, vaccine shortages and ongoing guideline changes, some reported by the media before we are informed. Waiting lists can total thousands, with many patients registering with multiple locations, necessitating significant time confirming appointments to ensure every dose is used. For every vaccination, there is associated equipment, infection-control, counselling, monitoring, paperwork, EU Digital COVID Certificate generation; all while ensuring the day-to-day pharmacy operations continue.
Despite the challenges, it has been a privilege to help expedite the roll-out of COVID-19 vaccination.
Róisín Curley MPSI
Pharmacist, Curley’s totalhealth Pharmacy, Ballyhaunis, Co. Mayo
The unique position of community pharmacists offers many benefits to vaccination campaigns. By September 2021, over 250,000 COVID-19 vaccinations were administered in community pharmacies. As the healthcare provider who patients see the most, opportunities for education, reassurance, and support are obvious. People know and trust us; the familiar faces of the pharmacy team provided comfort to many vaccine-hesitant patients. Pharmacies also improve vaccine access, with diverse geographical reach and attractive opening hours, and an alternative to long queues and large crowds in vaccination centres.
By September 2021, over 250,000 COVID-19 vaccinations were administered in community pharmacies.
It did not take a global pandemic to invent pharmacy vaccination; we have carried out flu, shingles, and pneumonia vaccinations for many years. What the pandemic did advance was our reach. New regulations introduced included the ability to vaccinate off-site, email prescriptions and remote consultations.
The expansion of our capabilities cannot end here. Pharmacists could greatly increase access and uptake of many other vaccines, including childhood immunisations. With diverse clinical expertise, we also have the potential to free up our colleagues in general practice by supporting medication adherence, contraception provision, minor ailments treatment, and much more.
We are ready, willing, and more than able to participate in a more integrated healthcare system, prioritising patient-centred care, education, and preventative health.