Zulfikar Jalal, a Birmingham pharmacist, took part in a Zoom round-table meeting with the Shadow Health Secretary Jonathan Ashworth to discuss the role of community pharmacies in the mass COVID-19 vaccination project.
Throughout the pandemic Zulfikar has been going above and beyond for his local community. Two of his pharmacies were involved in a COVID-19 rapid lateral flow testing pilot scheme which has since been rolled out throughout the country. This involved testing asymptomatic patients for COVID-19 and getting the results to patients within half an hour, potentially kerbing the spread by patients that do not have any symptoms.
Zulfikar believes there are gaps in the vaccination programme and that community pharmacies have the right infrastructure in place to play a key role in delivery. Specifically,
“for a lot of housebound patients, only the pharmacy has provided them with services such as flu vaccinations. At the moment they are being left out, because either they cannot get to the mass vaccination site, or they are not on the list.”
Inspired by the tens of thousands of volunteers who have come forward to help in the greatest public health emergency of the NHS, Zulfikar has also volunteered his time during weekends at his local vaccination centre, helping to vaccinate the current eligible groups as well as aiding local GP practices to care homes to vaccinate the most vulnerable of patients who are unable to leave and go to a vaccination site.
Following his meeting with pharmacists in Dudley, the Shadow Health Secretary subsequently presented to Parliament:
“We should be using pharmacists because they have years of experience building trust and vaccine acceptability within hard-to-reach groups and minority ethnic communities.”