PHARMACIES in Wales are set to become involved in the process of vaccinating people against coronavirus, with discussions going on over how that will happen, says Wales' Chief Medical Officer.

Aneurin Bevan University Health Board, like its counterparts across Wales, has been checking the suitability of community and other venues across Gwent that might be suitable for use as mass vaccination centres, and GP surgeries will also play a central role.

The challenge in Wales, as it is across the UK, is to provide sufficient vaccination sites to enable as many people in the priority groups to be vaccinated as quickly as possible - and Wales' CMO Dr Frank Atherton said all health boards in Wales are developing plans to "rapidly increase the vaccine coverage".

These include using mass vaccination centres and GP surgeries, and - Dr Atherton told the Welsh Government's latest coronavirus briefing - discussions are going on over getting pharmacies involved in the process.

There are more than 700 community pharmacies in Wales, including over 130 in Gwent, and many are already involved in delivering the flu vaccination programme, which is this year bigger than ever with the number of people eligible for a free flu jab increased, in part as a response to the Covid-19 threat.


It is hoped that many community pharmacies will get involved in the delivery of coronavirus vaccines, to maximise the available outlets.

At the moment though, this may be confined to the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine, the roll-out of which has begun across the UK this week, as it does not require storage at the extremely low temperature required by the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine, which involves specialist refrigeration.

Wales will seek to match England's aim of vaccinating everyone in the top four priority levels by mid-February, and NHS Wales chief executive Dr Andrew Goodall told the briefing that the arrival of the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine "really does change our ability to push on with volume".

"We will be dependent on ensuring there are supplies, but our numbers will be increasing through January and beyond," he said.

Dr Goodall said the NHS in Wales is very experienced in delivering vaccines, though never to a whole population, and within this timescale - but there is a commitment and the ambition to do so.

"We are looking for certainty over delivery and supplies [of vaccines]," said Dr Goodall.

"We want to make sure we can track those measures and describe them more publicly."

Dr Atherton said: "We will go as fast as we can, but there are some constraints.

"[The system] must be as safe as possible, and we must avoid wastage. This is a precious commodity and we will have limited supplies for a time.