Protect us, say pharmacists around the world

face mask covid coronavirus ppe
Closeup of young woman doctor with gloves puts on medical mask.

Following the deaths of several frontline pharmacists around the world, FIP is calling for coordinated action to help support the profession, including with personal protective equipment

On Tuesday the International Pharmaceutical Federation issued 23 urgent measures that it says governments and other stakeholders must put in place to ensure continuity of pharmaceutical care around the world.

These measures will also allow pharmacists to play an even greater role in the battle against COVID-19, it says.

The call to action addresses several issues currently being faced by the pharmacy profession, one of which is that pharmacy workers need access to appropriate protective equipment.

Late last week, the World Health Professions Alliance, including FIP, wrote an open letter to the G20 leaders calling for coordinated action to ensure the security of the supply chain of personal protective equipment (PPE) for all health professionals and healthcare workers on the frontline against COVID-19. The letter asks the G20 to “take immediate and adequate steps to reactivate and ensure the supply chains for PPE with speed and consistency through manufacturing, customs, procurement, and delivery”.
The WHPA, an alliance of pharmacists, physical therapists, nurses, dentists and doctors, called for the world’s leaders “to put geopolitics to one side to secure the global PPE supply chain before we lose more staff and, consequently, more patients”.

Dr Catherine Duggan, FIP CEO, said, “We have seen a number of deaths among frontline pharmacists, even in countries with a relatively strong healthcare infrastructure”.

“And now we are seeing COVID-19 emerge in Africa and Latin America.

“Together, we are urging G20 leaders to find creative solutions to solve the current PPE supply problem.

“All our healthcare workers must be protected because they are taking great risks to continue to care for their communities. FIP will be sending out its own Call to Action to governments, covering these very issues, shortly.”  
In the open letter five organisations, which together represent more than 31 million health care professionals across the globe, said that international cooperation would also assist lower-income countries with fewer resources to access the vital equipment needed to protect their health workforce.

“In the face of a global pandemic, there is no room for national egos,” they concluded.

Pharmacists and pharmacy workers who have lost their lives to the COVID-19 pandemic include Pooja Sharma and Mandy Siddorn in the UK; Magdyel-Aghoury, in Egypt; at least eight community pharmacy staff in Spain; a 25-year-old pharmacy technician in California; Abdulshakur Hazhir Amiri in Iran; and several pharmacists in Italy.

As well as protective equipment, FIP called on Tuesday for several actions, including that:

  • Pharmacists and pharmacy staff are recognised as key workers; 
  • Pharmacy staff are included in the groups of healthcare and essential workers to be tested for coronavirus/COVID-19; 
  • Home delivery of medicines and pharmaceutical services to patients who must stay at home is funded; 
  • Medicines at risk of shortage are identified and mitigation plans put in place; 
  • Continuing education in infectious disease and emergency response is funded; and
  • Financial aid is provided to pharmacies in the event of temporary closure for health reasons.

FIP also called for the authorising and harnessing of the network of pharmacies to contribute to mass testing across populations (following the adoption of evidence-based protocols for the usability of rapid point-of-care tests for COVID-19 in appropriate individuals in the community setting).

It also wants further investment in and development of infrastructure to ensure health systems are ready for mass immunisation when COVID-19 vaccines are available, including updating regulations to enable pharmacists to immunise adults.

“The valuable service that pharmacists and their teams provide to communities, and their important contribution to easing the huge strain being placed on health systems during the current coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic is now clearer than ever,” said FIP President Dominique Jordan.

“We know that these colleagues are going to great lengths and subjecting themselves to risks in order to ensure continuity of care, particularly to the vulnerable, and to maintain a robust and efficient medicines and medical product supply chain as well as providing much needed advice and services.

“Pharmacists at community and hospital pharmacies and clinical biology laboratories are sharing in the enormous pressure of preventing the spread of the new coronavirus disease.

“Sadly, we have already witnessed pharmacist deaths related to COVID-19 and many pharmacists have patients who have died because of the infection.

“We must ensure the well-being of these colleagues so that they can continue in their vital work.”

The FIP measures also call for appropriate services to be put in place to support the psychological health of pharmacists and pharmacy staff, and for governments and other employers to ensure that pharmacists are getting adequate breaks during their shifts and time off between shifts.

FIP’s call to action can be read here.

The WHPA’s letter to G20 heads can be read here.

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