A thousand little ships are waiting to come to the rescue, in the battle to vaccinate Britons against Covid.

25 February 2021 By Paul Martin

Here’s his novel approach:

Our view is that 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’ — though we’ve done nearly 20 million first doses, we have only done one million second doses. 

[The UK Government wants all second doses done within twelve weeks of the first dose.]

In a month or six weeks time we are going to hit the wall.  If we continue to provide the same outlets, simple mathematics show you the system is going to be busy [clogged up?] delivering the second vaccinations.  The first dose gives people the confidence and the roll-out needs to keep moving forward for [maintaining] people’s confidence.

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. There are 13,500 of them. 

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: keep the big hubs going as they are doing first vaccinations, but move the second 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.  But only if you move away from the current thinking of the government.  Government is asking for how many pharmacies can do a thousand a week, or now 400 a week.  But they are missing the main thrust of the strategy: forget about [demanding only ] the larger-volume stuff..  It’s the larger volume approach rather than the select approach. 

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. 

Also: in dealing with the misinformation of anti-vaxxers.  People don’t trust the 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.

How can this be practical?

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

Why has the government been so reluctant to expand the pharmacies’  role?

I suspect that the first vaccinations, [made by] Pfizer, needed rather elaborate preparation – sensitive to light; needed to be kept very cold; had to be diluted.  If you ensconced that thought process, it is clear community pharmacies would not have lent themselves to that. 

We switched [mainly] to the Astra-Zeneca vaccine, which is much more like flu jabs, yet the Pfizer thought process still remains in their heads.   So Big was Beautiful.  The big hubs, the big venues, the football stadium, the museums, the XL centres, it was a kind of Post-Apocalyptic approach, where people could be queuing and coming successfully out. 

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

[ Not putting even the existing pharmacies [260] as an option on the GP send-outs or links:] This demonstrates beautifully why the silo approach doesn’t serve the interests of the patients.  Doctors, options, chemists etc are all operating by using separate lists.  Covid has taught us we need to work together.

[NOTE: THE SILO APPROACH AS DEFINED ON WIKIPEDIA: An information silo, or a group of such silos, is an insular management system in which one information system or subsystem is incapable of reciprocal operation with others that are, or should be, related. Thus information is not adequately shared but rather remains sequestered within each system or subsystem, figuratively trapped within a container like grain is trapped within a silo: there may be much of it, and it may be stacked quite high and freely available within those limits, but it has no effect outside those limits. Such data silos are proving to be an obstacle for businesses wishing to use data mining to make productive use of their data.]

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