In-depth

A missed opportunity?

In In-depth

Good news for pharmacy technicians regarding the 2021/22 national flu vaccine programme, but does the new protocol go far enough?

Pharmacy technicians will be able to deliver some aspects of the flu vaccination service during the 2021/22 season, according to a new national protocol published by Public Health England (PHE).

While this has largely been welcomed, the fact that the profession will be excluded from one key stage of the service has been described as “a missed opportunity at a time of need” by Liz Fidler, president of the Association of Pharmacy Technicians UK (APTUK).

Overall responsibility

The new ‘National protocol for inactivated influenza vaccine’ states that a clinical supervisor must take overall responsibility for providing the vaccine and for the safe care of everyone who is vaccinated. A clinical supervisor “must be a registered doctor, nurse or pharmacist trained and competent in all aspects of the protocol”, says PHE. However, the protocol states that they can be “supported by additional registered healthcare professionals” – and this includes pharmacy technicians.

The protocol divides the vaccination process into four stages. Stage one covers assessment of the person presenting for vaccination, provision of information, gaining informed consent and providing advice. Stage two is vaccine preparation, stage three is vaccine administration and stage four is record keeping. “A pharmacy technician may undertake stages two, three and four of the protocol,” a PHE spokesperson told TM. “They may not undertake stage one activity.”

Eligibility criteria extended 

As a result of mask-wearing, social distancing and restricted travel, flu levels were low during 2020/21 across the UK, and globally. The Government therefore expects there to be lower population immunity this year, and has temporarily extended last season’s NHS vaccine eligibility criteria to include children in school years 7 to 11. The temporary measure to offer 50- to 64-year-olds the flu vaccine will also be continued. 

Skills and knowledge

While Ms Fidler says she is pleased that pharmacy technicians have been included in parts of the protocol, she is “disappointed that pharmacy technicians are not enabled to complete the whole process, including consent, for which they have the skills and knowledge as a registered profession.”

The protocol states that flu immunisation may also be provided under a Patient Group Direction (PGD). Again, pharmacy technicians are not on the list of healthcare professionals who can administer and supply medicines or medicinal products under PGDs.

“The profession is able to contribute more and at this time of global need should be empowered to do so,” says Ms Fidler. APTUK has committed to continue lobbying for this change – read more here.

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