Enhance pharmacy’s role

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Pharmacies and pharmacy students are a crucial part of ‘widening the channels’ for COVID vaccinations says Grattan Institute 

Australia needs to urgently ‘widen the channels’ through which it is distributing COVID-19 vaccinations if we are to successfully ramp up the percentage of the population being vaccinated, say public health experts. 

And pharmacies are one of the channels that need to be at the forefront, say experts from the Grattan Institute in an article published in The Conversation this week, in which they called for a comprehensive overhaul of our current rollout strategy.   

“If Rollout 2.0 is to make use of the millions of new doses arriving every week, it will need to deliver at least three times as many doses every week as it has been able to achieve so far,” wrote Stephen Duckett, director of the Institute’s Health Program, and Anika Stobart, Grattan Institute associate.

“Government planning seems to be putting GPs front and centre of Rollout 2.0 – the same strategy that failed in Rollout 1.0,” they said.

“Rollout 2.0 needs to increase both the hours existing outlets are available and expand the number of large vaccination hubs. It should also introduce new outlets such as pharmacies“.

“A faster rollout will need a bigger workforce. Planning needs to start now on how we should draw on medical, nursing, and pharmacy students to contribute to Rollout 2.0″.

In addition, they proposed states should “bring vaccines to people, by providing on-site pop-up vaccination centres at major sports events, workplace hubs, universities, major public transport stations, housing commissions, and regional town centres”.

The article said there were three key areas the government needed to target as it revamped the rollout strategy:

  1. Fixing the logistics – not just the supply of vaccines, which is set to improve, but also the distribution channels. “The government needs to assure the public that the supply chain and distribution networks are working efficiently. It should be as easy for me to book my vaccination online as it is to book a restaurant table or parcel pick-up online, with advance bookings helping to guide where extra doses should be allocated”.
  2. Widening the channels – as in the comments above
  3. Tackling vaccine hesitancy – “The aim should be to change the minds of those who are unsure, rather than focusing on those who are much less willing”. Using a nationwide text message campaign is one option they canvassed.

Another recent Conversation article said: “Health-care workers [including pharmacists] in our study said they wanted resources like decision aids and pictorial representations of risk and benefits to support personalised discussions with people with varying levels of health literacy”.

Speaking on the Today Show this morning (1 July), Lt General John Frewin, Commander of the Vaccination Task Force said additional regional pharmacies had recently been activated for vaccinations.

“We have got a very sophisticated distribution network, but we are getting Pfizer and AstraZeneca to all of the areas around the country. We’ve been opening up additional GPs, and recently additional pharmacies in some of those more remote and regional areas where there isn’t necessarily access to GPs,” he said. 

“Logistical arrangements around Pfizer are a bit more challenging than AstraZeneca at the moment. Some of those early requirements around refrigeration and the like have been changing, and in the early days, we had very few storage facilities for that. We are increasing those number of storage facilities now”.


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