Mairead Conlon of the Ulster Chemists’ Association made the remarks just as it emerged that pharmacies in England (beginning with an initial six outlets) were beginning to receive doses of Covid-19 jabs for the general public.
The News Letter has been pressing – via its ‘A Shot in the Arm’ campaign – to ensure that the Province’s roughly 550-or-so pharmacies are used to their full potential as part of the plan to inoculate the population.
The reason for this is that, with so many pharmacies, it will be much more convenient for residents (particularly those who struggle to travel) to receive the jabs from a familiar, trusted chemists’ outlet rather than from a small number of highly-centralised points.
The Department of Health has said pharmacies will play a “full and active part” in the roll-out of the vaccines, but as yet has not provided any kind of rough timetable for when this will happen.
Whenever it is, it is unlikely to be in the next few days, because pharmacists themselves are only expected to start being vaccinated from Monday onwards.
Speaking of their keenness to be involved, spokeswoman Ms Conlon said: “The network of community pharmacies across NI are embedded within communities providing medicines and health services with no barriers to access.
“Pharmacies have been offering flu vaccinations to health and social care workers for some months now and we were delighted this week to have begun offering free flu vaccinations to the 50–64 years age group.
“Community pharmacies are well trained, well placed and ready to take part in the roll-out of the covid-19 vaccination programme as it gathers pace.”
She was adding her voice those of other pharmacists, specifically Gerard Greene, the head of Community Pharmacy NI and Julie Greenfield of Pharmacy Forum NI, who are also supportive of involving local pharmacies.
The Catholic, Presbyterian, Anglican and Methodist churches have also indicated willingness to give their premises over for vaccinations.
Meanwhile an English pharmacy director has described joining the Covid vaccine roll-out as one of the “biggest days of my career”.
Andrew Hodgson was speaking as he began delivering its first jabs yesterday and Andrews Pharmacy in Macclesfield, Cheshire – one of six in England to begin administering doses.
Boss Andrew Hodgson described the rush to set up a vaccination site as “a whirlwind”.
He gave the first dose of the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab to 82-year-old Robert Salt at 8am on Thursday morning, saying: “I feel close to the people who are getting vaccinated and it is a personal experience for them.”
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