Vaccines are racing up the NHS agenda. The UK’s health service is being asked to deliver the biggest flu vaccination programme in history. Meanwhile, the search for a Covid-19 vaccine could uncover a breakthrough at any point in the next 12 months, triggering an even bigger immunisation effort.
What makes vaccination plans even more challenging is that the NHS is already facing winter pressure, a care backlog caused by coronavirus restrictions and questions over medicine shortages that could arise from Brexit.
Primary care providers and pharmacies are understandably considering how they might cope with the demand for rapid, safe immunisation on an unprecedented scale.
Impact of immunisation plans
There will be conversations about policy decisions and funding. But what practical steps could help frontline professionals manage the impending workload?
The Association of Pharmacy Technicians has been campaigning for its members to be added to the Patient Group Directive list, which would permit around 23,000 professionals to administer medicines to patients directly and share the workload.
Medicine supplies are another area of concern. The pharmaceutical industry issued a memo in June warning that stockpiles of some medicines had been used up entirely at the height of the coronavirus outbreak. On top of that, the potential for the UK to leave the EU without a trade deal could make stockpiles difficult to rebuild.
Even vaccines themselves could be in short supply. GPs could face vaccine shortages with manufacturers warning that they may not be able to meet the additional demand.
None of these factors do much to enhance the public trust that is such a vital component of any vaccination programme. Concerns about immunisation have been fuelled in recent years by misinformation and media scrutiny is intense.
Where’s the evidence?
Robust evidence is key. At every stage of vaccine development, a digital fingerprint is tracked, repeated, measured and replicated. Rigorous measurement of ingredients, serums, proteins, DNA and chemical amplifiers ensure the vaccine is targeted with precision, free of contamination and demonstrably safe.
But what happens next? Distribution under strict temperature guidelines is compulsory. Vaccinations can’t be left out in the summer sun, on the reception desk or in the car boot of a community nurse. Nor can they be entrusted to a domestic fridge which could be easily unplugged.
We’re now in a world where a vaccine needs to be digitally connected at every point, from inception and manufacture to distribution and delivery to patients.
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