Doctors are claiming a COVID-19 vaccine should stay focused on the GP setting, calling pharmacy “a retail space trying to sell you products”
One pharmacy stakeholder has expressed disappointment with comments made by leading doctors in mainstream media, regarding the planned rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine.
The Sydney Morning Herald reports that the Department of Health has confirmed that pharmacists will be utilised in vaccinating the community against the novel coronavirus.
“Key vaccination sites for the vaccine priority groups are expected to initially include hospitals, respiratory clinics and general practices,” said a Health spokesperson.
“Pharmacists are expected to play a role in the wider COVID-19 vaccination rollout, occurring from mid-2021.”
But AMA national president Dr Omar Khorshid told the paper that doctors had reservations about pharmacy being involved at all.
“The motivation of getting patients into the pharmacy is to get them using that as a health hub,” he told reporter Rachel Clun.
“Our view is the appropriate home for that is with a doctor, who is not trying to sell you anything else.
“Pharmacy is an important part of primary care, but also a retail space trying to sell you products.”
He said that doctors’ concerns include cold chain storage, the use of multiple-dose vials and the requirement to record vaccinations on the Australian Immunisation Register.
The RACGP’s president, Dr Karen Price, agreed and said that vaccination by GPs allowed doctors an opportunity to talk to patients about any other health concerns or problems they might have.
The Pharmaceutical Society of Australia’s national president, Dr Chris Freeman, expressed disappointment at these comments.
“Medical groups that are promoting these false turf wars should refocus on what our objective as health care professionals are and that is ensuring the health of the public moving forward,” he told the AJP.
“Pharmacies are healthcare centres where people go every day with chronic diseases to get advice on medicines and to ensure medicines are safe for them.
“Pharmacists have an obligation and are an ethical health professional that are there to supply health care for patients.
“Pharmacists are more than capable and qualified to administer the COVID-19 vaccine to patients, and to see Australia move through and out of COVID-19 it is critically important to have all hands on deck to make sure people can receive their COVID-19 immunisation and there is wide uptake.
“The focus needs to be on the health of the population, and with the skills and experience pharmacists have with immunisations, it makes sense that patients are given the option to visit their pharmacist for this service.
“Pharmacists have experience in cold chain storage and using the national immunisation register, so it made sense for them to be part of holistic approach to a vaccine program.”
Dr Freeman’s comments were similar to those made only days earlier by Victorian branch president of the Pharmacy Guild, Anthony Tassone, who was responding to the results of a recent AJP poll and to updates by officials on the status of a vaccine rollout in Australia.
“Make no mistake, there has been active and intense lobbying from doctor’s groups across the country that pharmacies should be excluded from the COVID-19 vaccine rollout based old and worn out arguments of pharmacies and pharmacist immunisers not being equipped to ensure social distancing, post-vaccine observation, management of potential adverse events and cold chain management,” Mr Tassone told the AJP at the time.
“We know this is not the case.
“Pharmacies have demonstrated our competence and capabilities in delivering vaccination services—gaining more and more trust and confidence from the public.”
Also quoted in the SMH article was Guild national president George Tambassis, who noted that patients wanted a choice as to where they were vaccinated, and including pharmacy would mean more people could be vaccinated in a timely manner.
In a recent message to Guild members, Mr Tambassis had also said that pharmacy must have a key role.
He also addressed issues such as storage, noting that “robust” cold chain protocols could be necessary, but that “community pharmacy is adept at the management of medicines that need such treatment”.
“To overlook our network of 5,800 pharmacies across the country – with 97% of consumers in capital cities no further than 2.5km from a pharmacy, and in regional areas, 65% of people within 2.5km of a pharmacy – would be a failure of health policy of the highest magnitude,” he wrote.