A BODY which represents more than 700 pharmacy owners in Wales continues to be 'disappointed' about not playing a fuller part in the Covid vaccine rollout.

From April 5, Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board (BCUHB) had administered more than 447,000 vaccines in North Wales.

Community Pharmacy Wales feels it is important their network is used more, particularly when mass vaccination centres - such as Ysbyty Enfys Llandudno - are decommissioned.

Judy Thomas, director of Contractor Services at Community Pharmacy Wales, told the Journal: “Both Welsh Government and Community Pharmacy Wales were always mindful that not all community pharmacies would be part of the Covid vaccine roll out, but we remain disappointed that less than 20 out of over 700 have actually been commissioned.

"We have the expertise and the capacity to play a much fuller part, and expect to be given the opportunity to do so as Wales in now moving into vaccinating the much bigger Cohort 10 of the population, where accessible high street locations for those in the working population will need to be part of the solution.”

On March 30, the Journal reported BCUHB had commissioned only eight pharmacies out of 152 to deliver the vaccine.

Dr Chris Stockport, executive director of Primary Care and Community Services, explained the health board is 'happy to involve any partners' but said there were challenges in place that prevented more community pharmacies being used including vaccine supply, logistical challenges, the vaccine having a limited shelf life, storage requirements and organisation.

A spokesperson from Community Pharmacy Wales added: "There are always challenges, but many of these can be overcome with will and determination. The biggest barrier to commissioning more is the lack of a national booking system.

"BCUHB turned around a pilot in a week which showed community pharmacies can do it, but two months on we’re still waiting. Having said all that, Betsi has still commissioned more community pharmacies than any other part of Wales.

"Since early January we have called for a national booking system which would eliminate these concerns.

"A national booking system would also have empowered people to choose where they wanted to be vaccinated, speeding up the whole process as has been done in England."

Dr Stockport said: "North Wales has led the way in testing how pharmacies can practically contribute to the roll-out, and we’ve learned from our pilot schemes that there are factors beyond our control to reach a place where we can commission more colleagues in Primary Care to deliver the vaccine.

“The biggest challenge we face in widening out the number of vaccination centres is vaccine supply. As is the case for everyone else across Wales and the rest of the UK, what we can achieve is still limited to the number of vaccines available to us.

"The capacity we’ve already got in place through our MVCs, LVCs, hospitals and GP practices could be doing even more vaccines if they were available to us, so to date we haven’t been able to roll out more locations as there hasn’t been additional vaccine supply available to use them.

“There are also a number of logistical challenges when introducing more locations where people can receive their vaccines. Unlike the annual flu vaccination campaign, the Covid-19 vaccinations available to us have challenging storage requirements, with a limited shelf-life, and come in multi-dose vials.

“All of this means that we need to book clusters of appointment together, planning appointment carefully to make sure that we use every last dose. It also means we can’t run the campaign like our flu jabs, where essentially anyone eligible can turn up and get their jab on the spot because the vaccines are in single-dose syringes and have more flexible storage requirements."