Number of pharmacies offering private Covid jab to quadruple by autumn (2024)

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The number of independent pharmacies offering private Covid jabs is set to quadruple by the autumn as the unexpected summer wave causes vaccine demand to soar.

At the moment, people can get jabs privately through 244 independent pharmacies throughout the UK, which all operate through the Pharmadoctor programme.

But that number is expected to jump to more around 1,000 in the next three months or so, as the scheme gathers momentum amid rising demand, Pharmadoctor chief executive Graham Thoms told i.

The increased provision among independent pharmacies comes a day after Boots, the only national chain offering private jabs, expanded the number of branches participating, from 50 to 80 – taking in Scotland and Wales for the first time.

The chain broadened its private jab offering after sales of Covid test kits almost tripled in June compared to the same period in 2023.

At the same time, Boots’ sales of medicines that relieve symptoms of coughs, colds, flu, and Covid were also up by 32 per cent in June compared to a year earlier and more than quadrupled for the week commencing 23 June compared to the same week in 2023.

Mr Thoms told i that demand had gone from being “really high” in June to “huge” in the first few days of this month after the option of a free spring booster for over-75s and immunocompromised people ended on Sunday.

“I’ve been really surprised by the level of demand. The numbers in the past four days have been huge. We’ve received emails from people saying ‘I was meaning to get my NHS booster but never got round to it, so can you let me know where I can get it,” he said.

“Demand in June was really high as well. I think that was probably because of all the reports that Covid’s on the increase again, on social media in particular. There are still a lot of people that are really well informed about Covid and have got a real interest in it,” he said.

“We’re going to continue offering the service all the year round. Whether eventually, in a couple of years time, it will become more seasonal, like flu, at the moment we’ll offer that service all the year round,” Mr Thoms said.

He said that Pharmadoctor will periodically remind those who have had the private vaccine with them before, for example in the spring, that they may benefit from a booster, when autumn comes around.

Jamie Kerruish, healthcare director at Boots, said on Wednesday: “Our private service builds on our delivery of C-19 vaccinations for the NHS.

“We are seeing a wide range of patients choose to get a Covid-19 vaccination privately and demand for the service has been higher than we anticipated. We expect it will continue to rise in the autumn and winter months,” he added.

Scientists are also concerned that the unexpectedly high levels of Covid seen in June could still be rising.

Last week, UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) data revealed that Covid cases are at their highest level since February after jumping by nearly a third in a week in England.

The UKHSA case dashboard indicated that Covid was more prevalent in June than it was in the May wave, after rising by 29 per cent in the week until 22 June.

The rise in case numbers is thought to be due to a combination of waning immunity built up from vaccines, previous infections and the rapid spread of an emerging variant known as KP.3.

But while the increase is concerning and expected to continue, scientists pointed out that cases are still barely a quarter of what they were in late December and early January when about 4.5 per cent of the UK population was infected

Scientists are anxiously awaiting the latest UKHSA figures tomorrow on the number of Covid hospitalisations and the proportion of people testing positive for the virus at hospitals and GPs.

They say there is a good chance they will show that cases have continued to rise – which they say is especially concerning given that this time last year infection rates were very low.

“I’m concerned that there has been an increase in hospitalisations due to Covid and that the virus is continuing to spread even during the summer,” Professor Lawrence Young, a virologist at Warwick University, told i.

“This shows that the behaviour of the virus is unpredictable, it has not settled into a seasonal infection and continues to change in ways that might give us problems in the future,” he said.

“If you consider yourself particularly vulnerable – for example if you suffer from conditions such as asthma or increased susceptibility to chest infections – or you are in contact with elderly and vulnerable people then getting a private vaccine is recommended if you can afford it,” Professor Young added.

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The Pharmadoctor private vaccination scheme charges around £75 to £85 for the Pfizer jab and £45 to £55 for the Novavax vaccine, although it is up to each pharmacy how much they charge and which of the vaccines they offer. Meanwhile, Boots charges £98.95 for the Pfizer vaccine.

Professor Paul Hunter, of University of East Anglia, said: “I suspect we are close to seeing infections peak – but not sure that will be just yet – and that hospitalisations will have risen through June but will still be well below what was the case last winter”.

He pointed out that barely 60 per cent of people over 75 who were offered the spring booster had one – “this is the group that I would encourage to get vaccinated unless they have had a Covid infection in the past couple of weeks,” he said.

Simon Williams, of Swansea University, added: “It is definitely a concern to see Covid cases rising this summer.

Although it is not causing anywhere as near as many deaths and hospitalisations as early in the pandemic, that doesn’t mean Covid is harmless.

“The biggest concern this wave is how many of those in higher-risk groups have not received their spring booster. I would encourage all those in higher-risk groups, who were eligible to get a booster on the NHS, to do so privately if they can afford it.

“I would also recommend those who want to reduce their risk of getting sick, potentially missing work or getting long Covid, and especially those who have vulnerable relatives or who work in settings where there are a lot of those who are immune-compromised to get a private vaccine – again, if they can afford it.”

Number of pharmacies offering private Covid jab to quadruple by autumn (2024)
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