Mass vaccination hub exposure


A vaccination hub and two Chemist Warehouses have been added to the COVID watch list, as a pharmacy leader slams mass venues as riskier than pharmacy

The COVID-19 Vaccination Centre at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre at South Wharf has been added to the list of COVID exposure sites by the Victorian Department of Health.

The hub has been listed as a Tier 3 site, and people who attended on June 7 between 3.15pm and 4pm are being urged to monitor for symptoms of the novel coronavirus.

The listing comes on the heels of the first COVID-19 vaccinations in community pharmacy in rural Queensland, where Pharmacy Guild executive director Suzanne Greenwood received her vaccine from pharmacist immuniser Sue Pocock on Monday, as part of a program where 49 community pharmacies across the state have begun offering free vaccination against COVID.

Trent Twomey, national president of the Pharmacy Guild, had welcomed the news of the first jab in community pharmacy, but had taken to the mainstream media to express his concerns about risks involved with mass vaccination centres, only hours before the South Wharf hub was visited by a person with the disease.

“I received a phone call this morning, from one of my past presidents of the Pharmacy Guild in Victoria, and he was driving to his pharmacy,” Associate Professor Twomey told Sky News.

“He drove past the Exhibition Centre and said, ‘This is ridiculous. There is a line around the street, for people lined up for a mass vaccination hub’.

“Now, you don’t have to be an epidemiologist to realise that creating big hubs of people where everyone is clustering, in a pandemic of a highly infectious and contagious disease, is just going to create further issues.

“We need a decentralised approach, where we’re utilising the 6,000 general practices, the 5,000 community pharmacies that have put their hand up and said, ‘Let us do it’.

“It’s safer, it’s less risky, it’s more convenient, it’s what other developed countries are doing and it just makes sense.”

A/Prof Twomey had also told the ABC’s RN Breakfast on Monday that “thousands of Australians” were presenting to community pharmacies every day asking about the jab.

He said that if all the nearly 4,000 community pharmacies which had volunteered and been assessed as suitable to provide COVID-19 vaccination were “switched on immediately,” the vaccine rollout would be brought forward by six months.

If a phased approach to bringing in community pharmacy began now – an approach also supported by the Guild – this would speed up the effort by three months, he said.

A spokesperson for the Pharmacy Guild told the AJP that mass vaccination hubs were not the answer.

“It makes no sense when you have a highly contagious epidemic like coronavirus to encourage people to cluster in large numbers in large locations like hospitals and footy stadiums, when you can have a decentralised approach done in localised settings in community pharmacies in a much safer way,” the spokesperson said.

“Also mass vaccination hubs in cities and major population areas don’t address the vaccination needs of people in regional, rural and remote areas.”

Also added to the list of Victoria’s exposure sites are the Chemist Warehouse Southbank, on June 5 from 12.30pm to 1pm and on June 6 from 10am to 10.10am (Tier 2); and the Chemist Warehouse South Melbourne, on June 6, from 10.10am to 10.20am (also Tier 2).

Meanwhile in Perth a man who had been in hotel quarantine but then produced a positive COVID-19 test visited a couple of sites after he had been cleared of the infection based on national guidelines.

The Chemist Discount Centre in Perth is listed as a public exposure site on June 4, 2021, from 5pm to 5.30pm. People who have been at this site are asked to be tested immediately and monitor for symptoms.

The man wore a mask at all times, WA Health said, and has returned to hotel quarantine “based on an abundance of caution”.

He does not have a variant of concern and had been vaccinated against the disease.

In NSW, the Berejiklian Government announced the opening of a second mass vaccination centre at a former Bunnings Warehouse in Lake Macquarie.

Health Minister Brad Hazzard said the centre would employ up to 100 nurses, 25 pharmacists or pharmacy technicians plus around 200 other support staff.

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