Army of community pharamcy staff to join fight against Covid-19 in Birstall

A new army of community pharmacy staff are to join the fight against Covid-19 – starting in Birstall.

By Martin Shaw
Thursday, 21st January 2021, 2:02 pm

In a success for our A Shot in the Arm campaign, Knights Oakwood Pharmacy is set to join the frontline.

Depending on vaccine supply, the Birstall-based pharmacy could begin vaccinations as early as next week.

The Reporter Series and its JPI Media sister titles last week launched a campaign to persuade the Government to involve community pharmacies in the vaccine roll-out. We believe no one should be more than 10 minutes’ walk from a vaccination centre.

Diane Chandler, Nabeel Anwar and Paula Woodgate, preparing to give covid vaccines, at Oakwood Pharmacy, Birstall

Knights is a national chain with 70 pharmacies across the UK but its store in Blackburn Road, Birstall, is just one of four approved by the Government, chosen for their strategic location.

For the first time pharmacy technicians have been trained to administer the vaccine and Paula Woodgate and Diane Chandler are ready to welcome people in.

Paula said: “Our pharmacy will do 800 or 900 flu jabs a year but this will be the first time we, as technicians, will administer jabs.

“If it helps people we will go the extra mile. We are at the heart of the community and it’s great to be part of a national effort to help save lives.”

Pete Horrocks, superintendent pharmacist at Knights, urged people to wait for a letter from the NHS inviting them to book an appointment.

Appointments must be booked online and people can choose a location closest to them. That list will include Knights Oakwood in Birstall when supplies are available, probably from next week.

“This is a national effort,” said Mr Horrocks. “We have been through a terrible year and now community pharmacies want to step up and help the NHS get to that magic goal of getting everyone vaccinated as soon as possible.”

The district’s MPs have also expressed support for our campaign.

Batley & Spen MP Tracy Brabin said: “I fully support the roll out of vaccines to community pharmacies and I am so glad that Birstall will be one of the first areas in Kirklees where people can be vaccinated in this setting.

“This vaccine is a lifeline to so many people who haven’t been able to see their loved ones in so long, and the more places we can have people vaccinated, the better.

“I’m looking forward to working with our local trusts and GPs and I’m ready to support them in any way I can so that we can reach the Government targets and get everyone vaccinated.”

Dewsbury and Mirfield MP Mark Eastwood said: “I entirely support this campaign's spirit, and it's great to see so many people keen to get their vaccine.

“I am pleased that the Government has already begun the roll-out to pharmacies, they will play a key role in reaching local communities.

“The vaccination programme is continually being ramped up, and I am confident that more local pharmacies will be deployed to support this national effort.”

Vaccinations in North Kirklees have kicked into gear with hopes high that all over-80s may have had their first jab by the weekend.

Dewsbury Health Centre in Wellington Road opened as a vaccination centre last week and even in snowy and icy weather people still turned out in numbers.

Last Saturday, there was a last-minute arrival of a batch of 200 doses and Mirfield Health Centre, one of the biggest GP practices in Kirklees, quickly filled appointments at Dewsbury for the following day.

In a message on Facebook group Mirfield Matters, Mirfield Health Centre said: “An unexpected delivery of 200 vaccines have been delivered. The practice have opened up online appointments for over-75s to book. The aim is to have all over-80s vaccinated by next weekend.”

The health centre said people unable to book online would still be contacted by the surgery by telephone when they became eligible.

Steve Brennan, who is in charge of the Kirklees vaccination programme, said the vaccine would be rolled out as fast as supplies become available and NHS staff were working round the clock.

“We know people are eager to get protected and may be concerned if they are in one of the priority cohorts and have not been contacted yet,” he said. “However, we would like to reassure them they will be contacted over the next few weeks.

“Services are extremely busy and we would ask people to help the NHS by not contacting their local GP or other NHS services about getting a vaccination.

“People will not be able to book an appointment until they have been invited to do so, so please be patient and we will contact you as soon as it is your turn.”