NPN | Pharmacies And Their Role In Protecting Against COVID-19

Since the pandemic began, pharmacists have been standing at the frontline in the fight against COVID-19. As society reopens, independent local pharmacies have been preparing the tools communities will need to move through the next phase safely and with confidence.

Community pharmacists have stepped into various roles during COVID-19, from delivering medications to patients to educating people on telehealth services. Pharmacists have assessed patients for the renewal of chronic medications and performed consultations on minor ailments. They have clarified misconceptions about COVID-19 and helped with COVID-19 screening and vaccination efforts.

Nine out of ten pharmacies across England have taken on the responsibility of distributing free rapid lateral flow tests, which people are able to collect and use at home. Around 1 in 3 people with coronavirus don’t have symptoms, which increases the risk of spreading the virus without realising it. Detecting COVID-19 in 30 minutes, these tests are helping to break transmission chains, ensuring fast and effective identification and shielding the public from the virus. Visit your local pharmacy to pick up a box of seven rapid tests, available free of charge for people aged over 18.

“Pharmacies make an invaluable contribution to our health service - they have gone above and beyond in response to COVID-19 to serve their communities. Now, they will play a key role in our rapid testing programme, which is a vital tool in reopening society in the months ahead.”

-Matt Hancock, Former Secretary of State for Health and Social Care

With rapid testing now available to everyone in England, the new Pharmacy Collect service will provide an additional route to having regular tests, making it easier for people without symptoms to access tests twice a week. Anyone with symptoms of COVID-19 - a new, continuous cough, a loss or change to sense of smell or taste, and a high temperature - can book a PCR test at a local pharmacy by calling 119 or booking online.

Thanks to the infrastructure established by the annual provision of flu jabs, community pharmacies are perfectly equipped to step up as vaccination centres. Pharmacies were asked to apply to NHS England to be awarded the status of a designated COVID-19 vaccination site, providing evidence that they meet the criteria for vaccine distribution. The vaccine, which is more than 90% effective in preventing COVID-19 when two doses are given, is available from participating local pharmacies when booked online.

In addition to helping out with pandemic-related issues, community pharmacies will continue to play their rule regarding public health, providing an uninterrupted supply of medicines and prescription deliveries to ensure people taking regular medication are still supplied with what they need. Pharmacies will also continue to disseminate information on precautions related to COVID-19, keeping the public informed about the most up-to-date advice.