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The Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) has welcomed the news that the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has approved the Oxford/AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine for rollout in the UK and has said that community pharmacies will play a major role in delivering the vaccine.

‘This is enormously exciting news for patients and the NHS COVID-19 vaccination programme,’ said the RPS’ Chief Scientist, Gino Martini.

‘Pharmacists working in hospitals and GP surgeries have already played an important role in getting the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine to patients through strategic planning, distribution and roles in the preparation and administration of the vaccine.

‘Now community pharmacists all over the country will be able to provide the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine directly to patients. One of the major benefits of the new vaccine is that it can be kept in a normal fridge, so it’s much easier to distribute and store in pharmacies.

‘Pharmacists are skilled in vaccination, having provided flu jabs and travel vaccines for years. This means the NHS has a ready-made workforce waiting to play its part to scale up the COVID-19 vaccination programme and speed up delivery of the vaccine to at-risk groups.

‘As trusted healthcare professionals, pharmacists can also help build confidence in the vaccine and increase its uptake. Pharmacies have been open throughout the pandemic and their convenient locations mean and opening hours mean much better access for patients to this new vaccine.’

The RPS statement came in response to the Government’s announcement that it had accepted the recommendation from MHRA to authorise the Oxford University/AstraZeneca vaccine for use.

‘This,’ the Government said in its statement, ‘follows rigorous clinical trials and a thorough analysis of the data by experts at the MHRA, which has concluded that the vaccine has met its strict standards of safety, quality and effectiveness.

‘The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) will also publish its latest advice for the priority groups to receive this vaccine.

‘The NHS has a clear vaccine delivery plan and decades of experience in delivering large scale vaccination programmes. It has already vaccinated hundreds of thousands of patients with the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine and its roll out will continue. Now the NHS will begin putting their extensive preparations into action to roll out the Oxford University/AstraZeneca vaccine.

‘From today, the NHS across the UK will prioritise giving the first dose of the vaccine to those in the most high-risk groups. With two vaccines now approved, we will be able to vaccinate a greater number of people who are at highest risk, protecting them from the disease and reducing mortality and hospitalisation.’

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