A group of community pharmacists in Kent have stepped up to aid NHS colleagues with the Covid-19 vaccination programme.
The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine first arrived at the William Harvey Hospital in Ashford earlier this month and has now been rolled out across other hospitals.
To enable medics to vaccinate on mass, a process known as a patient specific direction (PSD) must be followed which requires a doctor or other independent prescriber (IP) to be present to ensure the jab is administered to a named patient.
In the face of potential delays to the rollout, Kent Local Pharmaceutical Committee (LPC) CEO Shilpa Shah was approached by the Kent and Medway Clinical Commissioning Group to mobilise a group of pharmacist IPs to issue PSDs for the vaccine.
Ms Shah hosted an emergency meeting with pharmacists who are part of a network created by the LPC to see who would be available to help out at short notice.
Eight pharmacist IPs came forward but only five were later required.
“I sent out a message and an email and had an emergency 15-minute Teams meeting explaining the situation and to see who could free themselves up at short notice that very same day," said Ms Shah.
"Eight pharmacists came forward immediately, including five – Atika Tailor, Jamin Patel, Krunal Tailor, Lodi Lama and Sunil Kochhar – who could get a locum immediately.
"These five started reading all the information that they needed and the trust organised an overview and an FAQ session when they got there.
"We set up a group where they could share concerns so they could support each other and they all stayed until 10pm to write PSDs.”
She added: "I feel proud that Kent LPC was able to support and facilitate what we believe to be the first involvement of community pharmacy in the Covid vaccine programme three days after the first vaccine was given in the world."
Sunil Kochhar, of Regent Pharmacy in Gravesend, said it was an "absolute honour" to be involved to ensure people in Kent could get the vaccine.
"For community pharmacy to be involved three days after the first vaccination in the world was given was a real privilege.
"Many pharmacists are Independent Prescribers and as we know this is now going to form part of the future for the profession, this qualification allows us to be integrated more widely into the NHS.
"We are pleased that the CCG in Kent and Medway recognises and utilises the Community Pharmacy workforce and we hope that this collaborative working continues."
Also taking up the opportunity to lend a hand to the vaccination programme was Atika Tailor, IP and superintendent pharmacist at Sturdee Avenue Pharmacy in Gillingham.
Ms Tailor said: "When the opportunity came to help with the vaccine roll out, as a prescriber, I, along with my colleagues, jumped at the chance to help our community.
"There was no second thought and I am so glad that we did. The welcome we got was immense, the work we did was incredible and I hope that the impact we had will last. When pharmacists work together, great things happen.”
Delmergate pharmacist and and pharmacy manager at Sheppey Hospital, Krunal Vyas, added: “I felt very proud to be a part of the programme.
"It has brightened my day although I have worked till very late it was some kind of internal satisfaction that I have played a key role today and contributed something important to my community.”
East Kent Hospitals is one of 50 hospital hubs involved in the first wave of NHS vaccinations with more hospitals set to take part over the coming weeks and months.
Patients aged 80 and above who are already attending hospital as an outpatient, care home residents and carers and those who are being discharged home after a hospital stay, will be among the first to receive the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccination.
Front line workers will also receive the jab with Darent Valley Hospital in Dartford beginning to roll out the vaccine to its staff on Sunday.