Bringing the schedule forward

More pharmacies to be ‘brought into play’ earlier than expected to provide AZ vaccine, General heading the Vax program predicts 

Australia is now a “path to bring pharmacies into play a bit earlier than originally scheduled” says the General heading up the national COVID-19 vaccination rollout.

Speaking on Radio 3AW yesterday (19 July), Lieutenant General John Frewen, coordinator of the National Vaccine Taskforce, said it was still unclear exactly when the Moderna vaccine, earmarked for provision in pharmacies by Health Minister Greg Hunt, would become available.

He was hopeful its arrival, and increased stock of other vaccines, would lead to an earlier than anticipated activation of the pharmacy network. 

When asked about the availability of Moderna, Lt Gen Frewen said “Look, it’s, it’s yet to be given it’s, sort of, clearance, but we think we’ll have it sort of, again, late September, early October at this stage. But it’s to be confirmed”.

However, he said by this time, there will be enough vaccine stock available to also broaden the accessibility of the Astra Zeneca vaccine through pharmacies. 

“By that September, October stage, I think we will have enough of both mRNA vaccines and the AZ vaccines that we should be able to offer for choice then,” Lt Gen Frewen said.

“At the moment, there is a plan to maybe push the Moderna into pharmacies, but we’re now on a path to bring pharmacies into play a bit earlier than originally scheduled.

We’ll be bringing them in to play with AstraZeneca in the first instance, but whether we get more Pfizer earlier or whether we get Moderna then those vaccines will be available through pharmacies by the end of the year”.

“We’ve got AstraZeneca coming through pharmacies already, and we’re just working now to bring more pharmacies on more quickly. So, they’re part of the web of making sure we’ve got adequate coverage across both metro and regional and remote areas as well”.

In another interview with ABC Radio, Lt Gen Frewen said pharmacists and GPs were both parts of the solution for rural and regional access to the vaccines.

“Over the course of this month, we’re bringing on 1300 additional GPs. Many of those are focussed in remote and regional areas and they’ll be delivering Pfizer vaccines,” he said.

“We’re also now bringing on pharmacies across the country and many of them will initially be in remote regional areas as well. And for now, they’ll be doing AstraZeneca… And then they’ll also be able to do the mRNA vaccines as well.

But we’re very much very conscious of making sure that the distribution of these vaccines is as equitable as it can be and that there is access right across the country”.

The Pharmacy Guild of Australia told AJP that Guild representatives were working closely with the Government and Department of Health to facilitate the use of all eligible pharmacies in the vaccination rollout “as soon as possible”.

“Bringing pharmacies online in metropolitan areas has taken on a new urgency given the lockdowns and we welcome the focus on this area of need,” a Guild spokesman said.

“All Australians deserve the choice of accessing all vaccines through all pharmacies.”



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