Clarity needed on EOI process

Pharmacies have received an update on EOIs for the COVID-19 vaccination program, but the Guild says there is a lack of detail around the selection process

Pharmacies that put in an Expression of Interest (EOI) to join the COVID-19 vaccination strategy have received an update from the Pharmacy Programs Administrator (PPA).

However there is no confirmation as yet as to how many community pharmacies have actually been approved for the program.

More than 4000 pharmacies are understood to have applied for the program and were expecting to receive a response from the Department of Health last Friday.

In an email update viewed by the AJP, sent out on Friday 19 March, the PPA stated that its EOI process for community pharmacy on behalf of the Australian Government Department of Health has identified the need for “further clarification” of responses provided by a “significant number” of pharmacies.

The additional information required relates to site requirements for COVID-19 vaccination, according to the update.

Relevant community pharmacies are expected to be contacted and it is anticipated this “clarification process” will be completed in April 2021, with “final assessment activities” undertaken from May.

However the PPA reassured that individual community pharmacies are expected to be notified of the outcome of their EOI “well ahead” of the commencement of Phase 2A, which is tentatively scheduled to rollout in May 2021.

“Pharmacies assessed as suitable will commence participation in tranches, based on readiness, vaccine availability, ability to reach priority populations and geographic considerations. Some pharmacies will commence as part of Phase 2A, while other pharmacies may commence as part of later Phases of the vaccine roll-out,” reads the update.

A spokesperson for the Pharmacy Guild of Australia told AJP that the Guild has some concerns about the process. It does not have a number of those conditionally approved as yet.

“The Guild has been working with the Department of Health to raise our concerns about the lack of detail being provided to community pharmacies, particularly around the selection process and when all pharmacies deemed suitable will be brought onto provide COVID-19 vaccination,” said the spokesperson.

Sydney proprietor Caroline Diamantis put in an EOI to join the program on behalf of her pharmacies, telling AJP that participating in the program was a “golden opportunity” to highlight what community pharmacists can do.

“In a world where community pharmacy is aligned with the Federal Government and being paid to assist in the national rollout of the vaccine against a world pandemic-causing virus… it makes perfect sense that I need to be part of that program,” said Ms Diamantis.

“Many patients have already asked and are on a waiting list in the hope we are selected.

“Our patients appreciate the convenience of being able to walk in – often without an appointment – and recognise our professionalism as vaccinators. We are on a mission to demonstrate our true capacity.”

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