Are pharmacists wary of the COVID vaccine?

cartoon syringe and hand saying stop

An AJP poll has delivered a surprising result: many readers have reservations about the COVID-19 vaccine

As the UK gets ready to roll out its COVID-19 immunisation program on Tuesday, using the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine – and as Australia’s acting chief medical officer Paul Kelly outlines Australia’s path to a vaccine, with availability expected from March – the AJP has found that some pharmacists may lack confidence about the jab.

We asked how optimistic pharmacists were feeling about the discovery, and availability, of a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine, and at the time of writing on Monday 7 December 2020, 55% of respondents (77 people) to this section of our multi-part poll said they were confident a vaccine would be approved and rolled out in Australia by mid-2021.

Another 22% (31 people) said they were confident we would find a vaccine, but it might take up to a couple of years.

Another 6% (9 people) said they thought it would take five years to find a safe, effective vaccine; 7% (10 people) said they did not think one would be found; and 9% (12 people) said that herd immunity would be better achieved by exposure to the disease itself.

In the second part of our poll, we asked how confident pharmacists were in administering a COVID-19 vaccine, and 52% (53 people) said they would confidently do so.

Another 19% (19 people) said they’d wait and see before administering it to patients… but another 29% (29 people) said they were not comfortable administering a COVID-19 vaccine.

The third part of our poll – which for a time appeared on the front page of the AJP website – attracted more attention, and showed that 267 people (35% of respondents) were not comfortable receiving a COVID-19 vaccine.

The poll has limitations in that it is not restricted only to those registered as a pharmacist.

This poll also found 40% of readers would hope to be vaccinated as soon as possible, and 5% agreed but felt that health professionals should not get priority.

Another 20% (156 people) said that they would wait and see a bit before receiving a vaccine.

Anthony Tassone, Victorian branch president of the Pharmacy Guild, said some reservations were understandable, but that he was sure pharmacists would rise to the occasion.

“Given the comparatively short time of development and clinical trials of this vaccine compared to others—there may be some patients hesitant to receive it,” Mr Tassone told the AJP.

“All of the health professional workforce that is involved with immunisation has an important responsibility in providing evidence-based information for patients to help them make an informed decision for their own and family’s healthcare.

“Australia is in an advantageous position of being able to evaluate the experiences of other countries abroad who have or are soon to commence their COVID-19 vaccine program. 

“Our Therapeutic Goods Administration has a global representation for having a cautious and careful approach to medicine approvals and this should be of comfort to the Australian public how rigorous our medicine regulators are when deciding whether something should be made available in our country.

“Hesitancy to receive vaccines is not a new concept, but this time it is a new vaccine.

“As medicine experts, pharmacists will be able to rise to the new and upcoming challenge of helping inform their patients and the community of this latest medical breakthrough.”

More on the upcoming vaccines and the key nature of pharmacy’s role here.

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