Chemists and pharmacies helping with the ramp up of the UK’s vaccination rollout

It’s the middle of the day and Guildford High Street is almost deserted. However, inside Superdrug, there is a quiet hub of activity as a small group of silver-haired customers line up to get their coronavirus vaccine: the first in the UK to receive it in a chemist.

“We’ve had carers coming in, children with their vulnerable parents. Everyone is just relieved," said Christine Zemba, the branch’s pharmacy manager, one of the members of staff who are beginning to administer the vaccines.

When patients arrive at the store, they are greeted at the front by a shop assistant with an iPad, who checks them in. They are led down the aisles, past the make-up, past the hair curlers, and ushered to a hastily-built waiting area at the back of the shop.

The temporary small waiting areas at the Superdrug chemist

Credit:  Eddie Mulholland for The Telegraph

The space was used for beauty treatments before the pandemic, an assistant tells me. 

The vaccines are given out in small consulting rooms around the edge of the store. In one sits Meris Cox, 80, who looks slightly nervous to be getting her jab.

Ms Zemba reads a list of the very rare side effects and asks whether she is happy to proceed. “Well, I have to, there’s no choice," she laughs.  

The Superdrug pharmacy in Guildford, about 10 miles west of London, with staff discussing the vaccine rollout

Credit: Eddie Mulholland for The Telegraph

Zemba prepares the syringe and Cox pushes down her sleeve. The needle goes into her arm and just a few seconds later is pulled out. “Is that it?” asked Ms Cox, clearly relieved. 

They are using the “Oxford vaccine” developed by AstraZeneca, which needs to be kept cold.

Ms Zemba shows me the specialised fridge where the doses are kept. There are five slim white boxes, each about the size of a pencil case. I am amazed to discover that each small box contains 100 doses. 

They will get more vials delivered every few days, with this branch aiming to eventually vaccinate 1,000 people every week. The NHS doesn’t go easy on them: they’ve allocated only five minutes for each appointment, said Ms Zemba.

“It feels like we’re finally in the right direction to normal life," she said. “It’s a global effort and it feels good to be a part of it."

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