Superintendent Pharmacist, Asda
Cold winters are never easy to deal with, but with the fear of a more overwhelmed NHS due to COVID-19, there is a solution for shoppers who are hoping for a quick and easy flu jab this year.
From infants, Brits have grown up with a well-rehersed immunisation schedule. But it might be surprising to realise that despite having a range of qualifying health conditions, free flu jabs on the NHS are not always taken up.
With the flu vaccine continually changing each year, (led by direction from the World Health Organization who predict the most dangerous strains), it is important that not just the vulnerable get their dose, but also a good proportion of ‘healthy’ people too. This leads to herd-immunity, which in turn helps to protect our most vulnerable who might not be able to have the vaccination themselves.
Expanding access to vaccinations
Offering vaccines through in-store supermarket pharmacies has given NHS patients wider access and choice to the vaccination outside of normal GP hours, as well as providing the affordable dose to private patients which can also help with herd immunity.
This year, with the global pandemic among us, there has been a huge uptake in the number of both NHS and private patients using pharmacy vaccination services including within supermarkets.
Faisal Tuddy, Superintendent Pharmacist at Asda explains, “With over 254 stores nationwide, we find that it is the convenience of our pharmacies sets us apart. Our doors open when the supermarket opens, many of our pharmacies open from 7am in the morning until 11pm in the evening. Any customer can pop in for a flu vaccination – with no appointment necessary. The convenience of getting a flu jab alongside your weekly shop is hugely important for our customers, who are facing longer waiting times to get through to their local NHS practice.”
Offering vaccines through in-store supermarket pharmacies has given NHS patients wider access and choice to the vaccination outside of normal GP hours.
Pharmacies work hand-in-hand with the NHS, and any qualifying member of the public can choose to get their vaccination through a supermarket pharmacy, instead of making an appointment with the GP. Mr. Tuddy adds, “Often our patients believe they don’t qualify, perhaps they feel fit and healthy and are in work, so they don’t even check. However common conditions such as asthma qualify, many patients simply aren’t aware. We can help them double check.”
Other vaccines are available
Private patients are also welcome and not just for flu vaccinations. Other offerings include a meningitis vaccination and a pneumococcal vaccination, the latter which wards against pneumonia. These are available all year round and there is no need to book; simply ask in store for further details.
The more seasonal flu jab is available in-store from mid-September but customers can still benefit from the jab right the way into February. Most can be accessed straight away or with a short wait, although there might be a short observation period required once all the documentation is complete and the vaccination has been administered.
Providing support and reassurance
During the pandemic, pharmacies have been a first port of call for many worried families unable to speak to their GP or other medical practicioners. Mr. Tuddy believes staff have done an amazing job. He says, “Our pharmacists simply haven’t stopped and we’ve kept our doors open during lockdown. The demand for flu this year has been much more than in previous years, and we know that’s down to the public trying not to overwhelm the NHS with a double-whammy of coronavirus and flu. We are very much part of the NHS and are happy to help any of our shoppers with their concerns.”