AMA president Dr Tony Bartone says that any over-65s flu vaccine used before mid-April this year was not the “most up-to-date, recommended vaccine” for the 2019 flu season
The Pharmaceutical Society of Australia has joined the Pharmacy Guild of Australia in rejecting Dr Bartone’s claim that pharmacists had been administering out-of-date vaccines.
During a segment of ABC Nightlife with Philip Clark this week, Dr Bartone suggested that pharmacists were offering old vaccines.
“Let’s talk about the competitive pressures that saw old vaccine stock being vaccinated,” he said in a discussion which also included Pharmacy Guild national president George Tambassis, the Australian Healthcare Alliance’s Jennifer Doggett and Stephen Duckett from the Grattan Institute.
Dr Bartone claimed there had been an “episode” where trivalent stock based on the previous year’s formulation was being offered “prematurely” in pharmacy to people who were eligible to receive a flu vaccine on the National Immunisation Program, when stock was distributed under the scheme a few weeks later.
In a statement today the PSA said that it “flatly rejects unsubstantiated claims from AMA president Dr Tony Bartone that pharmacist immunisers have used expired influenza vaccines”.
Such an action would be “unethical, unprofessional and illegal,” the PSA said.
PSA called on Dr Bartone to retract the comments, apologise to pharmacist immunisers for the error, and release a statement reassuring all people who have received a vaccination from a pharmacist that their treatment is safe and effective.
PSA president Dr Chris Freeman said there was no evidence an expired vaccine had been used by a pharmacist
“Pharmacists take seriously their essential role in providing safe and appropriate medicines,” he said.
“All pharmacist immunisers are trained to the same standard as other immunisers in Australia, and pharmacists have stringent quality controls that prevent the use of expired or superseded stock, including influenza vaccines
“In 2018, more than 1 million Australians safely received their flu vaccinations from a pharmacist.
“Vaccination against preventable diseases is one of the most effective and safe health interventions available to Australians. The use of fear or doubt about vaccination safety as a tool to ignite fear needs to stop immediately for the benefit of all Australians.”
Dr Freeman said PSA will be working with all stakeholders to address the damage these comments by the AMA president have caused to the perception of vaccination as a safe and effective method of preventing influenza vaccination.
During the Nightlife segment Pharmacy Guild national president George Tambassis asked Dr Bartone for evidence to support the claim, while a Guild spokeperson later told the AJP that it rejected the claim “outright”.
Now, Dr Bartone has clarified his remarks to the AJP.
“My comments were about the timing of the vaccination, the appropriateness of the vaccine used, and the unnecessary cost to patients of a pharmacy vaccination when they may have been eligible for a free vaccination under the National Immunisation Program once the new vaccine was released,” he said.
“This year’s NIP vaccine for over 65s only became available in early to mid-April.
“Any over 65s vaccine used before then was not the most up-to-date, recommended vaccine for this season’s strain of flu.”
Meanwhile some stakeholders have taken to social media to discuss the original remarks: the PSA’s Shane Jackson referred to them as a “Wakefield statement”.
— Shane Jackson (@ShaneJacks) August 29, 2019