Northern Ireland

Community pharmacies in Northern Ireland to join Covid-19 vaccination programme from end of March

People following social distancing measures as they wait to enter a pharmacy on the the Lower Newtownards Road in Belfast
People following social distancing measures as they wait to enter a pharmacy on the the Lower Newtownards Road in Belfast

PHARMACIES across Northern Ireland will join the Covid-19 vaccination programme from the end of this month, it has been announced.

News of community pharmacies joining the vaccination drive will see the vaccine brought to many high streets in urban and rural neighbourhoods.

The plan will see hundreds of pharmacies provide vaccine jabs to members of the public, complementing the work of GP practices and vaccination centres, Health Minister Robin Swann has said.

More than 300 pharmacies have signed up to be part of the scheme to date.

It came as 161 new positive cases were recorded in Northern Ireland yesterday but there were no further coronavirus-linked deaths.

The official launch of the roll-out to community pharmacies will be on March 30 - the day after the new mass vaccination centre at the SSE Arena in Belfast is due to open - although it is expected that many will have started before then.

The new initiative will mean eligible members of the public will be able to receive their jabs in scheduled vaccination clinics.

Mr Swann described the news as "another positive development in our drive to protect the people of Northern Ireland from Covid-19.

"Community pharmacists are an integral part of the health and social care family," he said.

"Their contribution to getting as many people vaccinated as possible will be invaluable".

Gerard Greene, Chief Executive of Community Pharmacy NI, said the announcement was a "fantastic and welcome step forward.

"The accessibility and reach of the community pharmacy network, with pharmacists as skilled vaccinators, means they are well equipped to take part in the vaccine programme and further contribute to the pandemic response," he said.

"Throughout the pandemic, the community pharmacy workforce has gone above and beyond to support patients across Northern Ireland. This latest example shows our pharmacists collaborating to ensure a smooth and safe vaccine programme to protect the public. This should be commended".

Mr Greene said the vaccination programme would "not impact on other services and prescriptions will be dispensed in a safe, convenient and timely manner.

"Public health continues to be our top priority and the community pharmacy network remains committed to serving their communities," he said.

"The Covid-19 vaccine is another example of community pharmacy playing that central role in primary healthcare".

Meanwhile, in the Republic, the Department of Health recorded 557 new cases of Covid-19 and 17 further deaths.