The Irish Pharmacy Union (IPU) has welcomed the announcement by Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly TD that pharmacies can now offer vaccinations for the 18-to-34 age group. From last month, over 700 participating pharmacies offered the single-shot Janssen vaccine to this age group. This major boost to the country’s vaccination campaign means that for the first time, all adults in the country are eligible to receive a vaccine.

From the outset, the IPU said it has consistently campaigned for pharmacies to play an active role in the national vaccination programme, stated the Union. They had started providing vaccination for unvaccinated over-50s last month, but the change in the NIAC advice on the use of Janssen vaccines created an opportunity to significantly expand pharmacies’ participation in the vaccination programme and the IPU immediately commenced discussions with the HSE on how the updated advice could be operationalised in pharmacies and an agreed plan was subsequently presented to the Minister.

Welcoming the announcement, Secretary General Mr Darragh O’Loughlin said: “Pharmacists are trained, experienced vaccinators. We have consistently called on the Minister and the HSE to use the skills, experience and accessibility of pharmacists in this national effort and to make vaccination available in communities nationwide. The Minister’s announcement… is extremely positive, providing everyone in the 18-to-34 age group with the option to access to a Covid-19 vaccine in their local pharmacy sooner than would be possible in the vaccination centres.”

Pharmacies commenced offering the Janssen Covid-19 vaccine to those aged 50-to-69 in June. “There has been huge demand across the country for people looking to receive vaccinations in the convenience of their local pharmacy. The feedback from the thousands of people who have been vaccinated by their local pharmacists so far has been extremely positive. With this expansion of pharmacy vaccinations, the HSE is effectively creating more than 700 extra vaccination centres in towns and villages nationwide,” said the IPU.

The IPU last month urged members of the public to make contact with their pharmacy in advance, and to be patient, as it will take time for supplies to reach each participating pharmacy, it explained.

Concluding, Mr O’Loughlin said: “Since the first doses of Covid-19 vaccines arrived in Ireland, we have been calling for pharmacies to be utilised. We are pleased that this announcement allows pharmacists to support the national vaccination effort, in particular for young people, who have sacrificed so much.”