We’re all incredibly proud to see Kalpen Patel, one of our extraordinarily talented pharmacists based in North London,  dominating the headlines as he administers Sir Keir Starmer’s booster jab. What a moment for our ground-breaking pharmacy group of over 140 of the UK and Ireland’s most entrepreneurial and respected pharmacists. But what a watershed moment we face now, as the rate of new Covid infections soars daily, and the need to protect our NHS and vulnerable citizens becomes critical once more.

With a published rate of over 50,000 Covid-19 infections a day, and experts warning that the true number may, in fact be as high as 100,000 due to asymptomatic transmission, Kalpen is performing a crucial role in demonstrating what a vital force we are in the booster vaccination programme. Especially when taking into account the number of Omicron cases, now over 300, and the fact it seems to have an alarmingly high rate of transmission. (Again, experts warn the true number of cases of the highly-virulent strain will be much higher, possibly over 1,000, because not all positive samples are sequenced.) Our hospitals and vulnerable citizens could be at risk, like never before, as this latest variant rampages through our communities.

Since the earliest days of the vaccine roll out, Alitam pharmacies have been at the vanguard of the drive to vaccinate and protect our vulnerable, and the population at large. This is thanks to our unique make-up of highly connected, visionary pharmacists who are poised (partly through their use of innovative technology) to deliver far more clinical services than any of the big pharmacy chains. What’s more, highly experienced, and driven, pharmacists such as Kalpen boast incredibly strong community ties, as a result of years and years of offering fantastic customer service. Understandably residents of these communities much prefer to visit a trusted pharmacist for their vaccination, rather than attending an unfamiliar site where they are anonymous. No surprise, then, that some Alitam members, at the peak of the vaccination roll out in July 2021, were administering upwards of 200 jabs a day. Staff worked round the clock, often deploying the services of family members so no-one was turned away.

And today, in Kalpen’s pharmacy Macey Chemist, as in many other Alitam member pharmacies, a huge effort is being made to avert the impending winter crisis by providing as many Covid-19 booster jabs as possible. They’re taking on more staff, to administer the jabs and cover core clinical work, and creating extra vaccination bays within the pharmacy. Macey Chemist have been liaising with fellow Alitam members, benefitting from crucial insights into how best to prepare for, and deliver, a scaled-up vaccination programme. This level of support, always on tap, is what marks out an Alitam pharmacy; making us more effective in supporting the health of our nation.

It’s likely that the booster is the key to providing crucial protection as Christmas gatherings and other ‘super spreader’ events go ahead over the festive season. Asymptomatic transmission will be rife, as testing is only mandatory in a few situations, such as foreign travel. Someone who shares this view is the Labour party leader, Sir Keir Starmer. He led by example yesterday, visiting Macey Chemist for his booster jab and proudly sporting his vaccination card. It’s vital to broadcast the message that everyone should receive their booster jabs as soon as possible. The vaccinations may not reduce the spread, but they will reduce the severity of Covid-19 symptoms and bring down mortality rates. Thus preventing the NHS from collapsing under intolerable pressure.

Kalpen Patel, and many other Alitam pharmacists and staff, are valiantly protecting our communities. They are uniquely placed to deliver efficient vaccinations and the associated care, in a familiar and caring setting. The winter may look bleak now but hopefully, with the example set by Kalpen and Sir Keir, the message is reaching the masses that booster jabs are readily available. And Alitam pharmacies will, as ever, go above and beyond to protect every single member of their communities. No matter what.

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