Immediate mobilisation of the nation’s health “missing link” would shave two months off vax target, report concludes
The Federal Government “shouldn’t rest” until all 4000 pharmacists qualified to deliver vaccines are giving COVID-19 vaccinations on a daily basis, saving the economy a potential $12 billion, according to the co-author of a major report on Australia’s vaccine rollout.
In conjunction with publication of the McKell Institute report “ The Missing Link: How Pharmacies Can Accelerate Australia’s Vaccine Roll-Out”, its CEO Michael Buckland said it was “baffling” the government has “been so slow to deploy one of our most powerful divisions – the nation’s pharmacies”.
The 30-page report said Australia currently had a smaller population fully vaccinated than any other country in the OECD and there was particularly “a major lag in the delivery of Primary Care vaccinations”.
Quoting the Federal Government’s Epidemiology and COVID-19 Vaccine Roadmap it said the States and Territories were expected to have “provided 2.4 million doses while the Commonwealth should have administered 9.2 million doses by the week of 12 July”.
“As of this date, the states have reached their target but the Commonwealth has fallen well below their target through both Primary Care and Aged Care & Disability Care programs,” it said.
The same Roadmap said 2,000 pharmacies should have been administering 200,0000 doses per week from 7 June 2021 but that as of 12 July 2021, “only 65 pharmacies were online to administer COVID-19 vaccines”.
Using 80% of the population vaccinated as a yardstick – a figure NSW Premier’s Gladys Berejiklian has said is the point at which “Fortress Australia” could open up – it said that with the current number pharmacies on board, it would take until the middle of January 2022 to achieve that goal.
But if all vaccine qualified pharmacies – 4000 in all – were brought online Australia could achieve “its vaccination targets 41–56 days faster than in the current base case scenario of just 65 pharmacies now online” it said, that target reachable by 19 November this year.
It said the government’s COVID-19 Vaccination Allocation Horizons plan at 11 July 2021 showed sufficient supply of vaccines for the approximately 4,000 suitable pharmacies to participate in the COVID-19 vaccination program.
After one million Pfizer vaccinations arrived in the country on Sunday night Lieutenant General John Frewen, who is heading the national Covid-19 vaccine program told the ABC yesterday (18 July) that these would still be distributed “either through the commonwealth GPs and distribution centres or through the state distribution hubs.”
While the number of GPs giving vaccines would be increased to 1300 by the end of July, he said, the government was only now “on the verge of starting to bring in more pharmacists” administering AstraZeneca to begin but also receiving training to give mRNA vaccines (such as Pfizer) as well.
On Sunday Health Minister Greg Hunt said 2.8 million people had had first and second vaccination shots with 7.2 million – or 35.1% of the population – having had “at least” their first dose.
The report made three three specific recommendations;
- All governments should allow their pharmacies to administer any TGA approved COVID-19 vaccine and the Commonwealth include pharmacists for new COVID-19 vaccines.
- The Commonwealth should immediately allocate vaccines to at least 2,000 pharmacies in locations with a high risk of infection and or poor access to vaccination sites and sbould bring in all 4,000 approved pharmacies into the roll-out as soon as possible.
- The Commonwealth should work closely with Aboriginal peak bodies to increase the roll-out because Aboriginal Controlled Community Health Services were below the vaccine target level.