Trusted pharmacists could help persuade those unsure over coronavirus vaccine, Health Secretary suggests

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Community pharmacies could have an important role in persuading those otherwise reluctant to have the coronavirus vaccine to trust the jab, the Health Secretary has suggested.

Matt Hancock last night said more than the 200 initial community pharmacies signed up as part of the Government’s mass vaccine drive would be utilised.

It comes after TheStar and its sister titles yesterday called for trusted pharmacists to be on the frontline of administering the vaccine.

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But he said this would be more useful in the second phase of the roll out, where the idea was to vaccinate as many people as possible, once the vulnerable had been protected.

Health Secretary Matt HancockHealth Secretary Matt Hancock
Health Secretary Matt Hancock

Speaking at a Downing Street briefing Mr Hancock said: “I'm sure that there's more that community pharmacy can do, I'm a huge fan of the role that community pharmacy plays, especially so close to the community so often it is the bit of the NHS that is most embedded in the local community.”

He said: “Now, that means that especially when we're coming to make sure that as many people as possible get the vaccine.

“At the moment we've started with the big numbers but we're going to have to get the vaccine out to people either who find it difficult to travel, or who are less certain that they want the vaccine, and persuade people to take the vaccine.

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“And I think that community pharmacy will have a particularly important role in that stage of the campaign.”

Mr Hancock said he was “confident” that the first four priority groups would receive their coronavirus vaccine by the middle of next month.

The Health Secretary said: “We are on track to meet that target – it’s not going to be easy, but we are going to get there.”

While National Medical Director for England Professor Stephen Powis said he too was confident that the target would be met.

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Mr Hancock said: “The vaccine rollout is now proceeding at pace, and we all know that this is the way out of the pandemic. I'm determined as I have been for almost a year now to drive this vaccination programme, as fast as is safely possible.

“I'm determined to ensure every adult in this country has the chance to be vaccinated. And that as many people as possible take up that chance to be vaccinated, and vaccines are important.

“I care about vaccines, because I want our country to get back to normal as fast as possible. I want us to have that great British summer.”

New figures show the number of people in the UK to have been given a first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine is nearly 2.3m.

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Professor Powis, told the briefing that vaccination would gradually lead to a drop in people in hospital.

“But we are not going to see it now,” he said. “We are not going to see it next week or the week after.

“It won’t be until we get to February that we are going to see the early signs of that.

“The vaccination programme gives hope but to battle the virus today, we have to comply with the guidelines today.”

Meanwhile, Labour has called for vaccination centres to be open 24/7..