A shot in the arm

New study provides another boost for the reach and efficacy of pharmacist influenza vaccination

A wide range of Australians who would otherwise not be vaccinated against influenza would do so if it is offered by accredited pharmacists, a new study reveals.

The study, the first of its kind of NSW, was conducted by Professor Peter Carroll and Professor Jane Hanrahan from the University of Sydney.

It showed that pharmacists can successfully administer influenza vaccine in the community pharmacy setting, and that this has wide public acceptance, with nearly one-fifth of those vaccinated never having had the vaccine before.

In total, 59 pharmacists who had completed the Pharmacy Guild of Australia accredited vaccination training course participated in the study. The pharmacists worked in 47 different pharmacies located both in metropolitan (73%) and rural (27%) areas, and data was collected for influenza vaccinations administered between the start of April and the end of July 2016.

During this time the pharmacists administered 2256 influenza vaccines, with no adverse events recorded. Data relating to prior influenza vaccination was available for 918 people and 137 (18%) of these had never received an influenza vaccine before.

Professor Carroll highlighted this finding that a “significant number” of those vaccinated in the study had not received the influenza vaccination before, especially among those patients aged under 50 years.

“This shows pharmacist vaccination is offering a service and getting to people who would not otherwise be receiving this vaccination,” he told AJP.

In addition, around 20% of those patients who qualified for a free vaccination from their GP under the National Immunisation Program, did actually pay to have it done in a pharmacy.

 Reasons cited included convenience, no need to make a GP appointment and the concern of being infected by sitting in the GP waiting room with sick people.

“I don’t see pharmacists providing influenza vaccinations’ puts them in direct competition with GPs or nurse practitioners,” Professor Carroll said.

“It’s really complementary to the service they provide. It offers another way to get to a range of people who in many cases would not otherwise be getting vaccinated.”

The feedback from the participating pharmacists was overwhelmingly positive, Professor Carroll saying they were “confident in doing the vaccinations, found it very professionally rewarding, said it improved their patient relationships, and that they would all be definitely participating again in delivering vaccines in 2017.” 

“I can’t see any negatives in pharmacists delivering influenza vaccinations,” Professor Carroll said. “Any assessment of the outcomes from our study, and from similar trials in WA and Queensland, shows that it works exceedingly well and can provide immense public health benefits.”    

The results of the study were presented at the 2016 Australasian Pharmaceutical Science Association Annual Conference at the University of Sydney.

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