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Pharmacists across the country are still “in the dark” as to when they can begin administering the Covid-19 vaccine. This is according to the Irish Pharmacy Union (IPU), which has called on the Minister for Health and the HSE to urgently clarify when pharmacists can begin vaccinating the public.

IPU Secretary General Mr Darragh O’Loughlin outlined the concerns of community pharmacists, commenting: “Pharmacists are increasingly frustrated at the complete lack of clarity on when they can begin vaccinating their patients and the broader public.

“The Government has set ambitious targets on providing one million vaccines per month from April. We have over 1,850 community pharmacies in Ireland, most of which will play a vital role in helping to achieve this target. However, despite being ready and waiting to vaccinate people within their local communities, they still have no information on when they will begin vaccinating.

“The IPU is concerned that any further delay in rolling out the service will lead to a failure to meet our vaccination targets. We are urgently calling on the Minister for Health and the HSE to clarify when pharmacists can begin vaccinating. When all they are seeing is delay after delay, pharmacists’ patients and the people in the communities they serve are getting increasingly frustrated.”

Meanwhile, the IPU has said pharmacists should immediately be mobilised to administer the HPV vaccine after an alarming drop-off in HPV vaccinations in the last year. The union has raised concerns at the significant fall-off in the number of students receiving the vaccination, as only 53.6 per cent of students received a first dose of the HPV vaccine in 2020, compared to over 80 per cent in 2019.

School closures and the redeployment of school vaccination teams to the Covid-19 vaccine roll-out have interrupted school HPV vaccination programmes and Mr O’Loughlin has called for this worrying situation to be immediately addressed, saying: “The fall-off in students receiving the HPV vaccination last year is deeply concerning and I have urged the Minister for Health to allow pharmacists to administer the HPV vaccine immediately. We urgently need to administer HPV vaccine to the 50 per cent of our young people who risk being left behind.

“Pharmacists are trained and experienced vaccinators and have consultation rooms at the ready. They have been vaccinating people against the flu for the last decade, with more than 300,000 flu vaccines having been administered by pharmacists in a six-week period last October and November.

“Given that the HSE has not yet decided when pharmacies will commence Covid-19 vaccination, this vaccination resource is available right now. Allow pharmacists to help protect our future generations from the morbidity and mortality caused by cervical cancer and other cancers related to HPV”, Mr O’Loughlin added.