The truth about vaccination

Academics say pharmacy leaders don’t have the full picture on student vaccination training capabilities

At the recent APP2017 conference a number of leading pharmacy figures were critical of the level of training given to pharmacy students in skills such as providing vaccinations. This is incorrect say University of Sydney academics Professor Jane Hanrahan and Professor Peter Carroll.

They wrote to AJP saying:

At the recent APP2017 conference, Pharmacy Guild of Australia national president George Tambassis was reported in a pharmacy media source as having criticised universities for graduating pharmacists without enough training in core skills, such as providing vaccinations.

In addition, APP chairman Kos Sclavos is reported to have said “Surely every university should have announced in the last 12 months … that all graduates from November or December 2017 will be credentialed in flu vaccine”, while Shefali Parekh, president of the National Pharmacy Students’ Association (NAPSA) is reported in the same article as saying “NAPSA would like to see all pharmacy students graduate fully accredited to provide vaccinations by the end of this year.”

As academics at the University of Sydney who teach pharmacy students we thought we should comment on these statements as they do not accurately reflect the current situation regarding the training of pharmacists to administer vaccinations.

At the present time the legislation and/or standards in most states preclude universities from offering vaccination training to students that accredits them to carry out vaccinations once they graduate.

To use NSW as an example, the legislation regarding the training of pharmacists to administer influenza vaccine states

“The training course must be conducted by an accredited Continuing Professional Development Accrediting Organisation. Currently the following organisations are accredited by the Australian Pharmacy Council to conduct a training course for pharmacists: –

  1. Pharmaceutical Society of Australia (Note: training course currently available)
  2. Pharmacy Guild of Australia (Note: training course currently available)
  3. Australian College of Pharmacy
  4. Society of Hospital Pharmacists of Australia.”

Therefore, under the legislation universities in NSW cannot conduct an accredited training course.

In addition, the legislation also states

“The pharmacist must complete a training course accredited to accord with the Australian Pharmacy Council ‘Standards for the Accreditation of Programs to Support Pharmacist Administration of Vaccines’ (current version).” The current Australian Pharmacy Council standard 1.1 states “Enrollment in the program is limited to provisionally registered and registered pharmacists.”

Therefore, until a student has completed their degree and obtained provisional registration, any vaccination training is not recognised even if the student has completed an approved course.

In NSW before universities can introduce their own vaccination training that would actually accredit graduates to vaccinate, both the current legislation and the current Australian Pharmacy Council standards would need to be changed.

In this respect, the Faculty of Pharmacy at the University of Sydney has contacted the Australian Pharmacy Council with a view to having the restriction on students completing the course removed, but to date this has not occurred. 

Recognising the current restrictions on students completing an influenza vaccination training course, the Faculty of Pharmacy at the University of Sydney last year entered into an agreement with the NSW Branch of the Pharmacy Guild to allow our Master of Pharmacy students to complete the NSW Guild’s accredited vaccination training course in the first week of their provisional registration. The course was conducted at the University in December 2016 and the new provisionally registered pharmacists who completed the course entered their intern year accredited to administer influenza vaccines under appropriate supervision.

It thus seemed to us that there is some misinformation and misunderstanding regarding the potential for Universities to train and accredit pharmacy students to administer vaccinations. As noted above, under current legislation and Australian Pharmacy Council standards this is not possible at this time. Hopefully our comments have helped to clarify the situation.

Authors: Professor Jane Hanrahan and Professor Peter Carroll

Professor Peter Carroll is chair of the AJP Editorial Board

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