A ‘Dunkirk approach’ is needed to roll out millions of second vaccine doses in the UK, says a pharmacist chief. As Britain did in World War Two, he wants to launch a ‘Thousand Little Ships’.

11 March 2021 By Paul Martin


Pharmacists have volunteered to come to the rescue of Britain’s National Health Service by launching “a thousand little ships like those that saved us at Dunkirk” to boost the roll-out of the second anti-Covid vaccine jabs.

Mark Koziol, chairman of the Pharmacists Defence Association, told Correspondent.World: ‘’Big is not always beautiful.”

He complained that the NHS and Family Doctors, known here as GPs, had relegated the country’s 13,500 pharmacies to a minor role.  Only 260 pharmacies were actually allowed to do Covid vaccinations, he pointed out, and said the local pharmacy offering a vaccination was often not even mentioned in NHS or GP communications to those needing the jab.  

He wants all the country’s pharmacies to play a role in the vaccination of the vast majority of people who have not had a second jab —  even if some chemist-shops are so small they can only do 15 a day.

“The successful UK vaccination programme gives people a good warm feeling that this COVID problem may well go away.

“ But there is a big ‘however’ — we’ve done far too few second doses so far.”

People need both doses for the full benefit of vaccination, and the UK has chosen to administer most of these about eleven to twelve weeks apart.

“We are going to hit the wall,” Koziol continued.  “If we continue to provide the same outlets, simple mathematics shows you the system is going to be clogged up delivering the second vaccinations.

“So it’s very important to drive the first-vaccination rate.  This is where you need to go to every single community pharmacy in the UK.”

“We call it the Thousand Little Ships policy. When more than 330,000 troops were evacuated from Dunkirk, it was a thousand little ships which made the difference… some only taking off a handful.  It was a real morale-booster in the overall war effort.

“What we are saying is: keep the big hubs going as they are doing more and more second vaccinations, but move far more of the first vaccinations to the country’s 13,500 pharmacies.  

“You only need to do an average of 25 vaccinations a day to approach two million vaccinations a week at pharmacies.  But only if you move away from the current thinking of the government.

“The Government has been only allowing vaccinations at a pharmacy if it can do a thousand a week, or now 400 a week.  But it’s missing the main thrust of the strategy: forget about demanding only the larger-volume stuff.

“This is our beef with the government.  This is where pharmacies are being neglected.  This is where the strategic thinking of the government is wrong.”

Koziol also claims pharmacies are much more likely than big hubs to attract or persuade reluctant people — or to cater for those who have become immobile or fearful or find it daunting to travel to the big hubs.

“We have a good role in dealing with the misinformation of anti-vaxxers, as people don’t trust national statements.  It’s better in the local community.  Pharmacists are scientists and health care professionals. We speak to the local communities and often in their local languages like Urdu.

“We will need to significantly enhance the vaccination efforts.  We will be faced with anti-vaxxers much more. People over 65 tend to be very grateful to the vaccinators, but below that age, the anti-vaxxer concern is much greater.”

Koziol said supplying boxes of the vaccine to all the pharmacies is not difficult to implement.

“It’s what’s already done in the normal activities of pharmacies.  Community pharmacies get delivery of medicines twice a day, a chain in existence for decades.  We can use it to distribute Covid vaccines too, and it already comes with a cold supply chain, for example to supply us with insulin.  

“ Our pharmacists have been administering flu vaccinations since the end of last August, so they have the necessary PPE [protective equipment] to not expose themselves to any patients who might have Covid.

“Or the vaccines can be delivered to an NHS hub, as we already have people delivering from there to care homes [whether large or small] — so they can do it also to pharmacies.

“’Big is Beautiful’ government thinking has won, I think, because we started with supplies from Pfizer, needing extreme frozen conditions..  So that worked best at the big hubs, at the big venues, the football stadiums, the museums, the XL centres. 

“It felt good and dramatic: a kind of Post-Apocalyptic approach, where people could be queuing and then coming out successfully.

“But the Thousand Little Ships approach has not yet been embraced, and we need to move quicker.”