Pharmacists key in reaching vaccine milestone

Julieanne Gilbert was vaccinated by pharmacist immuniser Renee Hall at the Sarina Discount Drug Store.

Two million COVID vaccine doses have been administered in over 500 state and territory clinics in only 27 days, as some community pharmacists in Queensland join the rollout

The Society of Hospital Pharmacists of Australia (SHPA) has welcomed new milestone figures as Australia’s COVID-19 vaccine roll-out continues to gather pace, with hospital pharmacists and technicians playing central roles in large-scale state and territory government run clinics.

National figures confirmed that two million doses have been administered in more than 500 state and territory clinics, a growing proportion of the five million total figure reached last weekend, with the current Melbourne lockdown trebling demand in Victoria.

SHPA Chief Executive Kristin Michaels says the ramping up of mass vaccination clinics is a crucial pillar in the national strategy to curb the pandemic this year.

“We welcome yesterday’s announcement of a second mass vaccination centre in New South Wales, to service the Hunter region and employ 25 hospital pharmacists,” Ms Michaels said.

“While the first million doses administered in state and territory clinics took 90 days from late February to mid-May, the second million has taken just 27 days, a trend that will continue as more large facilities come online and demand from the community remains high.

“This demand will be further stoked as second doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine are scheduled, and the proportion of Australians fully vaccinated begins to climb quickly.”

Ms Michaels says to maintain momentum vaccine roll-out strategies must continue to be flexible and responsive.

“We welcome approaches by several jurisdictions including New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland and the Australian Capital Territory to allow Australians aged 40-49 years to receive the Pfizer vaccine, which is administered from state and territory clinics and is also available to South Australians aged 16-49 years residing in non-metropolitan areas, as well as newly announced vaccine eligibility for all Northern Territorians over the age of 16.

“At the same time, we welcome the announcement 49 community pharmacies in regional Queensland are now administering the AstraZeneca vaccine, covering areas with no local GP provision.

“SHPA continues to support our members as they work with their hospital colleagues expanding state government vaccine hubs in strategic and high-impact locations, and we look forward to seeing vaccination rates increase steadily through the winter before the rollout extends broadly into community pharmacies in September.”

In Queensland, Assistant Minister for Health and Regional Health Infrastructure Julieanne Gilbert received her first dose of the COVID-19 vaccination at the Discount Drug Store, Sarina, from pharmacist immuniser Renee Hall.

The Guild’s Queensland Branch Acting President, Chris Owen said he was “thrilled” to be in Sarina with the Assistant Minister to promote the regional rollout of the vaccine through a limited number of community pharmacies.

He said Monday, when Guild national executive director Suzanne Greenwood was vaccinated by pharmacist immuniser Sue Pocock, “was a very important day for Queensland as our state became the first in Australia to extend the COVID-19 vaccination program to community pharmacies”.

Gilbert said that she was happy to roll up her sleeve to receive the vaccine.

“I want to encourage everyone to take up the opportunity to get the COVID-19 vaccination when it’s offered to them,” said the Assistant Minister.

“As a regional Queenslander myself, I am really pleased that the Palaszczuk Queensland Government was the first State Government to utilise the network of community pharmacies to ensure equitable access to the vaccine in the regions.

“I want to thank all of the people who have already taken up the opportunity to get their vaccine.

“I also want to thank all of the hardworking health staff, including our regional community pharmacists who are working tirelessly to keep regional communities safe.”

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