Boots and Superdrug start dishing out Covid vaccines as six high street pharmacies are recruited to hit 13.9m target by mid-February — but independent chemists fear UK will fail unless it uses ‘many more, much sooner’
Boots and Superdrug have started dishing out coronavirus vaccines this morning as No10 finally turns to the high street to deliver its lockdown-ending promise of immunising almost 14million people by mid-February.
The branches are among six independent pharmacies across England which were converted into Covid hubs this morning and will be able to administer hundreds of jabs a day between 8am and 8pm.
The pharmacies recruited to the national effort today include a Boots in Halifax and Superdrug in Guildford, as well as Andrews Pharmacy in Macclesfield, Cheshire, Cullimore Chemist in Edgware, north London, Woodside Pharmacy in Telford, Shropshire, and Appleton Village pharmacy in Widnes, Cheshire.
Those who are eligible for a Covid vaccine will be contacted and invited to make an appointment through a new national booking service. This gives them the option of having a vaccine at a pharmacy or in a GP-led vaccination centre.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson told MPs that distribution ‘will be going to 24/7 as soon as we can’ but said supply of doses remains the main barrier. At the moment the pharmacies will run a 12-hour day operation.
The six pharmacies have been picked because they can deliver large volumes of the vaccine and allow for social distancing, and Health Secretary Matt Hancock said it is ‘fantastic’ that jabs will be available on the high street.
‘Pharmacies sit at the heart of local communities and will make a big difference to our rollout programme by providing even more local, convenient places for those that are eligible to get their jab,’ he said.
By the end of the month more than 200 community chemists with capacity for 1,000 doses a week will be able to give vaccines, according to NHS England.
The pharmacies join the 200 hospitals, around 800 GP clinics and seven mass vaccination centres where jabs are already being handed out.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer urged ministers to go further and use England’s 11,500 pharmacies to deliver round-the-clock vaccinations by the end of next month.
Brenda Clegg, 92, receiving a dose of the Covid-19 vaccine from pharmacist Rae Hynes at the Boots pharmacy in Halifax, West Yorkshire
The Covid-19 vaccination centre at the Boots pharmacy in Halifax