A community pharmacist talks about his role in spreading the message about vaccination
Irfan Hashmi, the owner of TerryWhite Cumberland Park and a chain of six pharmacies – Aussie Discount Chemist – along with his wife, Sobia Irfan, has been playing a key role in spreading the word about the importance and availability of vaccinations.
Irfan describes the work he has been doing:
My wife Sobia and I have been in the community pharmacy profession for the last 15 years in Australia. Our pharmacies in regional South Australia have been passionately serving the community for over a decade.
I wanted to take this opportunity to draw your kind attention to a project that we are doing.
We are honoured to be a part of a collaboration with Multicultural Communities of Australia (MCA) to vaccinate the deserving and vulnerable members of the community free of cost.
The program was initiated with our pharmacy in Adelaide but, due to the overwhelming response, we expanded it to reach the country towns like Port Pirie and communities in Whyalla and Port Augusta through our pharmacy in Quorn, and to the Mildura Region through our pharmacy in Merbein.
We have already vaccinated around 100 individuals free of cost including those who do not have access to Medicare benefits like international students and short time visit visa holders, parents or family members of PR holders and immigrants.
The business has donated vaccines, along with time and services, to the community while MCA organised for other generous sponsors and donors to ensure a healthy and well-protected community.
The collaboration was an instant success and with the help of our multicultural in-house staff, we managed to reach 15 smaller communities (count is increasing) by translating our flyers in different languages like Hindi, Punjabi, Urdu, Farsi, Mandarin, Nepalese, Gujarati, Malay, Arabic, Filipino, Sinhala, Bangla, Greek and Pashtun.
These flyers were circulated in more than 60 social and networking groups of community associations based in South Australia with help of people to people connections. Having a multicultural and multilingual staff enabled us to provide a more inclusive and comfortable experience for people from different backgrounds. You can see the flyers attached.
Anyone could walk in the pharmacy to get flu vaccines but, we also decided to set up special flu clinics in mosques, temples and offices on weekends to reach more people.
This year due to the pandemic crisis and increased need for immunisation, we have had a huge influx of customers for vaccines.
I have traveled back and forth on weekends to do special Flu Clinics in country town Orroroo and Coober Pedy. I also organised an on-site flu clinic for council members of Coober Pedy and staff of Quorn’s council were welcomed at the Quorn pharmacy.
We were also one of the pharmacies offering vaccination through the Pharmacy Guild Corporate program.
We have had fully booked Flu Clinics in all our pharmacies. But, keeping in mind that many people have been affected financially as well due to Covid-19, we decided to step up and offer free vaccines because a healthier community will lessen the burden on our hospitals and GPs by providing them protection against, flu symptoms/Influenza.
We look forward to more avenues that can help us reach the most deserving members in this time of need. My team and I (we have six immunisation-trained pharmacists) have been working tirelessly and selflessly for vaccinations in the pharmacies and also for on-site Flu Clinics daily including weekends.
We received a letter of appreciation from the South Australian Minister for Health and Wellbeing, Stephen Wade.
We translated the flyers in many different languages to reach all kinds of communities and our Urdu flyer was recognised by Dr Geoffrey Shaw, High Commission of Australia based in Islamabad, Pakistan. It was motivational when he tweeted our flyer from his account acknowledging our services as frontline health workers.
Carolyn Power MP also gave us a shout out from her Facebook Page.
This recognition of our efforts, co-operation, and support in new possibilities will motivate all of us to continue such services long term.
Irfan Hashmi was the 2009 SA PSA Pharmacist of Year Award in recognition of his community work in rural outback South Australia.