IntroductionCommunity pharmacists and their teams have remained accessible to the public providing essential services despite immense pressures during the COVID-19 pandemic. They have successfully expanded the influenza vaccination programme and are now supporting the delivery of the COVID-19 vaccination roll-out.AimThis rapid realist review aims to understand how community pharmacy can most effectively deliver essential and advanced services, with a focus on vaccination, during the pandemic and in the future.MethodAn embryonic programme theory was generated using four diverse and complementary documents along with the expertise of the project team. Academic databases, preprint services and grey literature were searched and screened for documents meeting our inclusion criteria. The data were extracted from 103 documents to develop and refine a programme theory using a realist logic of analysis. Our analysis generated 13 context-mechanism-outcome configurations explaining when, why and how community pharmacy can support public health vaccination campaigns, maintain essential services during pandemics and capitalise on opportunities for expanded, sustainable public health service roles. The views of stakeholders including pharmacy users, pharmacists, pharmacy teams and other healthcare professionals were sought throughout to refine the 13 explanatory configurations.ResultsThe 13 context-mechanism-outcome configurations are organised according to decision makers, community pharmacy teams and community pharmacy users as key actors. Review findings include: supporting a clear role for community pharmacies in public health; clarifying pharmacists’ legal and professional liabilities; involving pharmacy teams in service specification design; providing suitable guidance, adequate compensation and resources; and leveraging accessible, convenient locations of community pharmacy.DiscussionCommunity pharmacy has been able to offer key services during the pandemic. Decision makers must endorse, articulate and support a clear public health role for community pharmacy. We provide key recommendations for decision makers to optimise such a role during these unprecedented times and in the future.
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