The prospect of community pharmacists being involved in the coronavirus vaccine roll-out in Northamptonshire has been welcomed by public health chiefs.
None in the county are allowed to give out either jab at the moment but it is hoped some will be able to soon to get to more harder-to-reach communities, a press conference heard yesterday (Friday, January 15).
This newspaper and its sister papers are campaigning for pharmacists to used to their full potential after being initially snubbed from the vaccination programme.
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NHS Northamptonshire Clinical Commissioning Group chief executive Toby Sanders, who is in charge of the programme in the county, described pharmacies' involvement as an 'exciting opportunity'.
"As soon as NHS England is in a position to authorise any of the community pharmacy sites within Northamptonshire, of which we have many well-distributed across the county, we are absolutely keen to build them into our programme to work with them as part of that delivery model," he said in response to a question from this newspaper.
"Not least because I think it will help in terms of local accessibility in different parts of the country that might not have such each access, either into some of the primary care network (PCN) hubs or into some of the larger vaccination centres.
"It's something I'm expecting to see more locally as we roll-out going forwards and we will work with NHS England, our regional and national colleagues who are in the process of rolling out that community pharmacy programme nationally."
So far, 45,000 people have been given the vaccination in Northamptonshire, which Mr Sanders said was 'great progress' as they aim to inoculate everyone in the first tranche by the mid-February deadline.
Around two-thirds of the county's over-80s population have had the jab and around a third of care home residents at the two hospitals or 16 clinics at GP surgeries.
Mr Sanders believes the unprecedented vaccination programme should give people 'hope' while the NHS also deals with such high numbers of coronavirus patients at the moment.
However, there are some who continue to raise unfounded concerns about the jab, with anti-vax graffiti being sprayed over tributes to the heroes of the pandemic.
Northampton Borough Council leader Jonathan Nunn condemned those actions and insisted the vaccine is perfectly safe with him eager to have his as soon as possible.
Dr Jamie Green, who has been working at one of the GP vaccine clinics, insisted the overall mood is of happiness rather than fear.
"We;re currently vaccinating more than 1,000 people a week and brings us a lot of hope and in reality, it's such a small proportion of people that are in this anti-vaccine lobby," he said.
"But in reality it makes very little impact in terms of the good work being done across all the PCN sites and hospitals and everyone who's vaccinating right now.
"We've got all sorts of people volunteering at our centres and genuinely, it's the first time in this pandemic that we're giving care and we're smiling as patients leave our vaccine centres and there's a real sense of hope."