Pharmacies ‘on the bench’

Chemist Warehouse and the Pharmacy Guild are in agreement: community pharmacies could be vaccinating against COVID-19 already

The Brisbane Times reports that Pharmacy Guild members are having to turn away Australians interested in having their COVID-19 jabs in pharmacy, due to pharmacy’s exclusion from the current stage(s) of the vaccine rollout.

In late April, National Cabinet decided that the states and territories would be able to choose to incorporate community pharmacies (which were originally due to commence from Phase 2a) into their rollout plans in rural and remote areas where there are no or limited other points of health access.

National Cabinet agreed at the time that the broader role of community pharmacies in the national rollout is deferred.

Community pharmacies were originally planned to begin vaccinating against the novel coronavirus this month, though this is now expected in June.

The rural quick-start plan, suggested a few days earlier by the Guild, received immediate positive attention from Health Minister Greg Hunt, who said that the country would need “all hands on deck” to help administer the vaccines.

Pharmacy Guild national president Trent Twomey told Fairfax media that patients were keen to be vaccinated in pharmacies and already asking when it could happen.

“I have been receiving questions every week — people are coming in droves, asking for our opinion,” he told reporter Emma Koehn.

“Then they ask, ‘Can you give [the vaccine] to me now?’ And it’s like, ‘actually, no, I can’t.’ We are turning them away — and it’s no longer due to a lack of supply.”

He said that the biggest barrier now was “consumer confidence – and confusion over who is eligible to receive the vaccine, about where, and when”.

At the Chemist Warehouse Group, director Mario Tascone told Ms Koehn that he hoped community pharmacies would be able to start vaccinating soon.

“For myself and my fellow pharmacists, this is the most important thing we’ve ever done. But we’re sort of like the ‘super sub’ in a football team at the moment, we’re on the bench,” he said.

As at National Cabinet’s last meeting on Friday April 30, 2,179,544 doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been administered in Australia.

The number of administration sites has expanded, the Liberal Party of Australia said, with 4,500 general practices plus general practice respiratory centres and Aboriginal health services now administering COVID-19 vaccinations.

Meanwhile in Western Australia, a pharmacy has been added to the COVID-19 watch list as new exposure sites were identified.

A Perth security guard and two friends visited these sites while infectious. The hotel security guard is believed to have contracted the novel coronavirus while at work. Both his friends tested positive for the disease.

Anybody who was at the Pharmacy 777 at Nollamara between 4pm and 5pm on Friday, April 30, or on Thursday, April 29, between 6pm and 7pm is advised to be tested for COVID and remain at home until they receive a negative result.

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