Portsmouth pharmacy shortlisted to become one of UK's first chemists to issue Covid vaccine
CITY chemists could be delivering coronavirus vaccines by the end of the month as efforts to jab more people with the life-saving drug accelerate, it can today be revealed.
It comes as The News urges the government to use the nation’s 11,500-strong network of pharmacies in our campaign – A Shot In The Arm.
Downing Street yesterday confirmed major high street brands Boots and Superdrug had been recruited to offer the vaccine.
On top of the major retailers, the government said 200 community chemists – also earmarked to provide the protective jabs – were to come online ‘over the next fortnight’.
Now The News can reveal that among the chain of independent stores shortlisted for the role includes Laly’s Pharmacy, which has which has branches in Guildhall Walk, Fratton, North End and Southsea.
Health chiefs from NHS England are currently finalising plans, with the successful organisations expected to be announced on Monday.
Baldev Laly, founder of the city-based chain, said the Guildhall Walk site was among those up for consideration in the tranche of 200 sites and insisted his company would be ready to go as soon as doses arrived.
‘If this happens, we could kick off towards the end of next week or the following week,’ he said, adding: ‘Pharmacies are ideal places where people are less intimidated.
‘There are 11,000 of them, which is a lot of capacity. People can walk in and walk out. They’re also very conveniently placed within the community.’
Six high street pharmacies began offering jabs yesterday as part of a national pilot scheme. The closest to Portsmouth was a Superdrug store in Guildford.
The government hopes that up to 70 will be operational and taking bookings for next week, with hundreds more by the end of the month.
Health secretary Matt Hancock said it was ‘fantastic’ high street pharmacies had joined Britain’s vaccination effort.
‘Pharmacies sit at the heart of local communities and will make a big difference to our roll-out programme by providing even more local, convenient places for those that are eligible to get their jab,’ he added.
People invited to make an appointment through the new national booking service will be given a choice between a vaccination centre or a pharmacy service.
It will also not be possible to get a vaccine at a vaccination centre or community pharmacy without an appointment.
Mark Lyonette, chief executive of the National Pharmacy Association, which represents independent community pharmacies, said community chemists were ‘eager to play their part in the Covid-19 vaccination programme.
‘This is a proud moment for community pharmacy and a moment of hope for all,’ he added. ‘We look forward to working with the NHS on the further mobilisation of pharmacies, right across the country.’
Fresh data from NHS England, released yesterday, revealed that so far 348,863 people across the south east had received their first dose of the vaccine - or 3,921 vaccines per 100,000 people.
Meanwhile, 62,394 residents had received their second dose since the vaccination programme began last month. Portsmouth’s mass vaccination hub, at St James’ Hospital, in Milton, is set to open later this month.