This year’s severe flu season has highlighted that pharmacy can do more to help boost vaccination rates, says the Guild’s David Quilty
And extending the National Immunisation Program to pharmacy would help even more, he says.
Writing in this week’s edition of Forefront, Mr Quilty says that there is “little doubt” that flu notifications would have been even higher this year if it were not for the availability of pharmacist-delivered vaccination in community pharmacies.
Latest figures show that confirmed cases in the 2017 season have exceeded 199,500.
“This figure continues to rise as the season extends beyond its usual length,” he writes.
“A number of deaths have been reported, primarily among older people but also disturbingly over recent weeks among younger Australians as well. These deaths include a three-year-old child and a young mother.”
Pharmacy’s ability to reach young adults is one of the channel’s significant strengths, he writes.
“Younger people are low GP service users but as this year’s flu season has shown, they are as susceptible to the flu as everyone else.
“In addition they are often carriers of the disease while showing no symptoms and therefore spreading unwittingly spreading the disease through their communities.”
The 2017 flu season has been the first where pharmacists all across Australia have been able to give flu vaccinations in the community pharmacy setting.
“A survey of patients earlier in the year showed more than seven million Australians aged 18 to 64 years planned to have a flu shot this year,” Mr Quilty writes.
“This research also showed more than six million Australians were more likely to have a flu shot if it could be administered at a local pharmacy, including two million who previously had no intention to vaccinate against the flu.”
Mr Quilty cited data published by Professors Peter Carroll and Jane Hanrahan in the September print edition of the AJP, in which the authors outlined the success of the service in NSW. Further information on that study is available here.
These findings also suggested that pharmacy was reaching people who would not otherwise have been vaccinated, due to sheer convenience.
Just over a fifth of people vaccinated in NSW pharmacies were in high-risk groups who could have had a free vaccine administered by their GP, but who chose to pay in pharmacy instead.
Mr Quilty also cites the Western Australian study published in the BMJ last year, and said this and the NSW study underline the results of the original Queensland Pharmacist Immunisation Pilot.
“The three reports clearly demonstrate the success of pharmacist-delivered vaccinations and all three reported no severe adverse reactions,” he writes.
“The very wide public acceptance of the services, and the fact that some consumers are willing to pay for a service which they may be eligible to receive at no cost at their GP, underpins the need to have these vaccinations easily accessible to ensure greater uptake.
“There is also a need to learn from the current flu season and act now to extend the availability of pharmacist-delivered vaccinations to prepare for next year’s flu season to lower the high rate of infection and death.
“Extension of the NIP to the pharmacist-delivered services will help to ensure more vulnerable people are protected against the disease.
“The NSW report showing a higher uptake among younger people through pharmacist-delivered immunisations is significant and the Pharmacy Guild is urging that every effort be made to increase this number to further protect the community.”