Health Minister raises the possibility of COVID surveillance testing in pharmacy
Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt says pharmacy is among the options being considered as a location for COVID surveillance testing.
Speaking at a press conference in Canberra on Monday, 2 August, Mr Hunt said “In terms of surveillance testing, we are conducting a trial of rapid antigen testing and we’re looking to expand that.”
“I was working with Professor Skerritt from the TGA just this morning on this. And his view is that what we are likely to see in Australia is an expansion of rapid antigen testing, both in terms of the sites, initially under supervision, and then the possibility is there of it moving to unsupervised”.
And amongst the sites being considered are pharmacies, the Minister added.
“At this stage, all the medical advice we’ve received is that they want to see it supervised as coming through AHPPC – so the advisory panel of chief health officers and chief medical officers. So, that option for greater rapid antigen testing is expected to evolve and expand over the coming months in Australia.
“Possibly to pharmacies for point of care, over and above what we’re seeing with doctors and others, but we want to make sure that every possible positive case is detected, and then the possibility remains over the coming months for self-diagnosis”.
Mr Hunt said there were currently 288 pharmacies nationwide that were vaccinating against COVID-19, “and that will grow to 700 over the coming two weeks”.
Overall in the primary care space, there are now 5700 ‘points of presence’, he said.
“We are now distributing at a faster rate than we had expected in July. Obviously, because of the earlier ATAGI advice and the reduction in the preferred pool from just over 20 million to 5.5 million people, that did have an impact. And we’ve acknowledged and accepted that,” Mr Hunt said.
“But what we’re seeing is that the GP network, supported by the state system, supported by the pharmacies, can provide huge distribution so long as there’s the demand. And Australians are showing there’s the demand”.
Meanwhile, Chris Owen, acting president of the Pharmacy Guild of Australia’s Queensland branch has welcomed a State government decision to commence delivery of COVID-19 vaccinations from over 200 metropolitan community pharmacies, beginning this week.
“This news could not have come at a better time,” said Mr. Owen, “we’ve had 131 community pharmacies in regional and outer-metro areas rolling out the COVID-19 vaccine; at the end of this week, we should be able to offer access to community members right across Queensland.”
“I’d like to thank both the Federal Government and Queensland Government for securing 150,000 extra AstraZeneca doses for community pharmacies; this will hopefully mean everyone who is currently on a waiting list to get their COVID-19 vaccination will now have the opportunity to do so.”