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The Irish Pharmacy Union (IPU) has welcomed the recent announcement by Government of funding that will allow for a comprehensive community-based Covid-19 vaccination campaign.

Speaking following the announcement, IPU Secretary General Mr Darragh O’Loughlin said: “There are more than 1,800 community pharmacies located in every town, village and neighbourhood across the country. Pharmacists are wholeheartedly supportive of the vaccination campaign and ready to play a major role in helping Ireland defeat the Covid-19 pandemic.

“This deal will significantly increase the country’s capacity to deliver Covid-19 vaccinations and, with pharmacists providing vaccination in communities across the country, we will increase ease of access and overall uptake of the vaccine. Pharmacists have been administering flu and other vaccines in Ireland for over a decade and have all the training and experience required… ”

However, Mr O’Loughlin added that it is essential that pharmacy staff themselves be vaccinated without delay. “Pharmacists, as with anyone giving the vaccine, must be vaccinated themselves in order to do so safely. People using pharmacy services, especially medically-vulnerable patients, deserve the assurance that their pharmacist and pharmacy team have been vaccinated. Any further delays in vaccinating pharmacists could severely impact the pace of the national roll-out.”

Meanwhile, the Union has warned people to get informed on the implications of Brexit on some UK prescriptions, pointing out that if they use an online teleconsultation to get a prescription, even if it is via an Irish website, if the prescriber is based in the UK (including Northern Ireland), the prescription will not be valid in Ireland.

New legislation introduced post-Brexit allows for hard copies of medical prescriptions from a face-to-face consultation with a UK-based prescriber to continue to be recognised. This is to enable continued access to healthcare of citizens travelling between jurisdictions, ie, being able to fulfil a prescription from a home country when in another. However, online prescriptions or prescriptions written by UK-based prescribers for the purposes of enabling mail order supply issued to people living in Ireland are no longer valid.

This means that, if a teleconsultation is carried out by a UK-based doctor for a patient based in Ireland (even if accessed through an Irish website), neither a digital nor a physical prescription resulting from that teleconsultation will be acceptable, the IPU advised.

Mr O’Loughlin commented: “The intention of the new legislation is to prevent prescriptions being issued by information society services or cross-border telemedicine services, based in the UK or other third countries. The current Brexit deal covers trade, not services, and the issuing of a prescription in such a manner is regarded as a service with a third country… It is really important that people are aware of this change.”