Hunt ‘attracted’ to fast-start pharmacy COVID idea

3d rendering of an old soviet flag on a dirty wall (Leyonhjelm story)

Health Minister flags a possible early start for some pharmacies in the vaccine rollout, as the Guild president takes aim at “Soviet-style” mass vaccination

Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt has told reporters that over the last 48 hours, he had been discussing the proposal with Guild national president Trent Twomey, and Victorian president Anthony Tassone.

The proposal would involve utilising community pharmacies in non-metropolitan areas with limited or no GP access.

He was answering a series of questions at a press conference on Sunday, including when pharmacists would be able to administer the vaccine, and whether other health workers would be able to do so.

“With regards to pharmacies, there’s a very early opportunity,” the Minister said.

“I’ve had discussions both with the Victorian and the National Presidents in the last 48 hours, and I’ve got to say, the National President Trent Twomey has put forward a very compelling proposal, and that is for those communities which do not have general practices but do have pharmacies, we may have a fast-start pharmacy proposal, and I’m attracted to it.

“We’d have to look at that through both National Cabinet and with pharmacies, but we’d like to reach a landing on that over the course of the next two weeks.”

He said that later in the year, when a “huge increase” in vaccination is expected, it would need to be “all hands on deck at that point” utilising a combination of primary care, general practice and pharmacy, as well as state and territory-based mass vaccination clinics.

Professor Twomey told News Corp media that the proposal would benefit hundreds of communities with one GP, or no GP at all.

He said that in the interest of achieving herd immunity, it was vital to involve all community pharmacies earlier rather than later.

“This is saying, let’s leave the large Soviet-style mass vaccination hubs as a measure of last resort,” Professor Twomey said.

He had previously criticised the mass vaccination hub concept as impractical and less accessible than pharmacies.

“So with this mass vaccination idea, how does it work if I need to go to a footy stadium for my COVID shot?” he said earlier this month.

“Assuming I’m in a city near a footy stadium, I’d have to take time off work during the week, then have to get to the stadium in the traffic probably with my young family in tow, wait for hours for my shot in close quarters with hundreds of others, putting us all at greater risk of community transmission, and then wait around, then to find a way home for all of us. 

“Why wouldn’t I just want to go to my pharmacy down the road from home on a weekend? I could be back at home within 30 minutes with no disruption to my family, and a lot less risk of community transmission. It just doesn’t make sense.”

At the Sunday press conference, Mr Hunt also said that the Government was not considering enabling other health professionals such as dentists and veterinarians to give the COVID-19 vaccine.

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