Respected Sunderland pharmacist backs Shot in the Arm campaign '200 per cent'

A respected pharmacist has given “200% backing” to the Sunderland Echo’s Shot in the Arm campaign calling for the coronavirus vaccine to be rolled out via the nation’s army of pharmacies.

Umesh Patel, the owner of Leema Pharmacy, in Tunstall Road, Sunderland, said he could begin administering doses of the Oxford vaccine within 24 hours of supplies arriving and estimates he could provide upwards of 400 jabs a week.

The Echo, along our sister titles nationwide, has launched our campaign to call on Prime Minister Boris Johnson and health secretary Matt Hancock to speed up the vaccination process by allowing England’s 11,000 pharmacies to be used as frontline vaccine centres.

Only 200 of the largest pharmacies have so far received permission to help out.

Respected Sunderland pharmacist Umesh Patel with one of the fridges where he could store the Oxford vaccine at his Sunderland pharmacy.

Mr Patel, who received an MBE for his services to the profession in 2011, said: “I am 200 per cent behind this campaign to get the Government to utilise pharmacies more.

"Speaking as an individual, I don’t know why Matt Hancock and Boris Johnson have not decided to use community pharmacies more.

"The more people offering the vaccine, the more people are getting it quicker and then there is less pressure on the NHS and the hospitals.”

Mr Patel, who has worked in Sunderland for more than 30 years after originally studying pharmacy in the city in the 1970s, added: “We are equipped and we are ready.

Today we launch our A Shot In The Arm campaign urging the PM to use local pharmacies as covid vaccination centres.

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"We have offered flu jabs for the last four years and we have a spare fridge upstairs which we could use to store more of the vaccine.

"We could start this within 24 hours if we received the Oxford vaccine.

"I would work after hours and at weekends if it helped give the vaccine to more people.”

A Shot in the Arm is calling on the Government to use pharmacies as soon as possible to help reach its own target of vaccinating two million people a week.

Mr Patel said: "We could do 200 during the week and another 200 at the weekend when things are generally quieter.

"Some places could even do more because they have more capacity.

"Even if only half the 11,000 pharmacies took part, we could still take 500,000 out of that two million target.”

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