Convenience supports NIP access: Guild

Pharmacies should have access to flu vaccines under the National Immunisation Program, says the Pharmacy Guild

In a statement today the Pharmacy Guild of Australia said that it is encouraging States and Territories to provide enhanced access to influenza vaccinations for vulnerable adult patient groups, such as over-65s and those with chronic conditions such as asthma, through community pharmacy.

As it stands, community pharmacies are only able to access free vaccines for vulnerable adult patient groups under the NIP in Victoria.

The Guild says that it makes “great sense” for vulnerable adult Australians, regardless of where they live, to have the option of accessing free influenza vaccines distributed under the NIP through their local community pharmacy – including the high-strength trivalent for over 65-year olds which is only available through the NIP.

More and more Australians are choosing the convenience of getting their flu vaccination at their local pharmacy, administered by a fully trained immunising pharmacist, the Guild says.

The most vulnerable adult patients – those over 65 years old – should have access to an NIP subsidised vaccine at their local pharmacy, it says.

The 2018 Immunisation Coalition survey found that only 44% of Australian adults intend to be vaccinated against influenza this year.

The Guild says that this low percentage is a major public health issue and needs to be drastically increased – and pharmacy’s sheer convenience can help.

Associate Professor Julie Leask from Sydney University has identified the major barriers to lifting flu vaccination, including the difficulty of getting a doctor’s appointment. Lack of convenience is one of the issues preventing higher flu vaccination rates, she says, as reported in the AJP last week.

“Some people are motivated, but they’re struggling to access the vaccine, getting to appointments, overcoming the logistics, and of course that’s particularly an issue if you don’t receive it for free under the national or State program,” she said at the time.

The National President of the Pharmacy Guild of Australia, George Tambassis, said: “Since last year, pharmacists who have completed immunisation training accredited by the States and Territories have been able to administer adult flu vaccinations, and it makes sense for all jurisdictions to provide access to free vaccines under the NIP for eligible adult patients who get their flu shot at their local pharmacy”.

“By extending access to NIP flu vaccines for adult patients to community pharmacies, the States and Territories will help boost the number of Australians vaccinated and increase herd immunity,” he said.

“It makes sense that a national program designed to reduce the risk of flu among the most vulnerable patients should now include community pharmacists who have received accredited training to administer adult flu shots.”

“Access by community pharmacies to NIP vaccines for adult vaccination against influenza is good health policy, and we strongly encourage all States and Territories to take this action to boost access to vaccination.”

The call follows the announcement over the weekend by Health Minister Greg Hunt that it would be mandatory for all residential aged care workers to be offered flu vaccination.

Earlier this month, Guild Victorian branch president Anthony Tassone also argued in favour of pharmacists having NIP access around the country.

“All other States and Territories need to allow pharmacists access to NIP flu vaccines to boost the number of people vaccinated and increase the desired herd immunity,” Mr Tassone wrote.

“The fact that Victoria has effectively and seamlessly moved to increase the protection for its communities by giving pharmacies NIP vaccine access is a benchmark for other jurisdictions to follow.”

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