Full COVID-19 vaccine rollout delayed but Queensland trial to start soon, minister says
Queensland community pharmacies will be the first to administer COVID-19 vaccinations, says the Federal Health Minister.
Speaking at the Australian Pharmacy Professional Conference (APP2021) on the Gold Coast on Thursday morning, Greg Hunt, Federal Minister for Health and Aged Care, said that the full Stage Three rollout in pharmacy will take place no earlier than September, but more likely in October/November.
The delay is due to supply issues, he said.
Mr Hunt also hinted that the TGA is currently looking at new refrigeration rules for the vaccine against the novel coronavirus.
He announced that 56 regional Queensland community pharmacies will be the first to roll out COVID-19 vaccinations nationally.
Thousands of community pharmacists attending APP2021 on the Gold Coast heard the announcement directly from Minister Hunt, who gave an update on the COVID-19 vaccine rollout during the opening plenary.
Pharmacy Guild Queensland Branch Acting President Chris Owen, congratulated Minister Hunt and the Hon Yvette D’Ath MP, Queensland’s Minister for Health and Ambulance Services, for ensuring that Australians have access to the COVID-19 vaccination, as quickly as possible.
“Minister D’Ath has been focused on ensuring that regional and remote communities in Queensland have access to the COVID-19 vaccination through community pharmacies,” Mr Owen said.
“She understands that many Queenslanders don’t have easy access to other primary healthcare services or local GP clinics.
“Minister D’Ath continues to work closely with the Pharmacy Guild to ensure that all Queensland communities, particularly those in regional and remote areas, have access to primary healthcare and the COVID-19 vaccine.
“Given the need to vaccinate as many Australians as quickly as possible and the decentralised nature of our state, we thank Minister D’Ath for leading the way and ensuring that community pharmacies are part of the solution.
“The rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine is the most critical health initiative in our generation and community pharmacies are well placed to deliver.
“Anyone administering a COVID-19 vaccine in community pharmacies will undergo training with the Australian College of Nurses on this specific vaccine.
“We look forward to working closely with both Federal and State Governments to increase the number of community pharmacies involved in the COVID-19 vaccine rollout to improve patient accessibility,” said Mr Owen.
Minister Hunt also congratulated community pharmacies in his plenary speech for being accessible primary healthcare providers (visited by consumers on average 18 times annually), particularly during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Minister Hunt was one of those patients last week, visiting his local community pharmacy in Mt Martha, Victoria, for his annual influenza vaccination.
PSA’s National President, A/Prof Chris Freeman, called on governments around Australia to fast-track bringing more community pharmacies on board to improve accessibility to the COVID-19 vaccine.
“We have two excellent vaccines available which are safe and highly effective at preventing severe diseases, including hospitalisation and death,” said Dr Freeman.
“Now is the time for all eligible Australians to seek vaccination. Pharmacists around the country are vaccine champions and we are ready to play our part by joining the primary care rollout, ultimately protecting Australians against this terrible disease.
“Now is the time for other jurisdictions to sign up to community pharmacist administered COVID19 vaccinations. PSA is dedicated to supporting pharmacists in delivering the COVID-19 vaccine both safely and effectively to the public, and pharmacists around the country remain ready and on standby to support the strategy,” he said.
“With overseas regulatory agencies now confident the Pfizer vaccine is stable at normal refrigerated cold chain temperatures for up to 30 days, subject to local regulatory approval, it may be feasible for community pharmacists to also administer the Pfizer vaccine later this year in Phase 2b and beyond.”