Put COVID vaccine plan in place now: Twomey

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The Pharmacy Guild’s Queensland branch is asking the state Government to plan for pharmacy to vaccinate against COVID-19

The Queensland branch said on Tuesday that community pharmacists stand ready to support the Queensland Government to rapidly deploy a COVID-19 vaccine, should one become available.

Queensland branch president Trent Twomey said that while the international scientific community works towards a vaccine for the novel coronavirus, the Queensland Government and primary health care professionals should plan for one now.

This planning is required to ensure that community access to future vaccines and treatments is accelerated and equitable, he said.

“Rapidly deploying a COVID-19 vaccination in future will require all primary healthcare professionals to join forces and work together to protect vulnerable community members during a time when they are most at risk,” he said.

“Ongoing collaboration and coordination between the Queensland Government and health professionals is essential.

“Queensland’s Chief Health Officer, Dr Jeannette Young, has previously expressed how important it will be for the COVID-19 vaccine to be available to everyone and distributed as quickly as possible, including through local community pharmacies.

“She has acknowledged that community pharmacists are ready and mobilised to vaccinate.

“The Pharmacy Guild of Australia asks the Queensland Government to use the strengths of community pharmacists to rapidly and safely deploy vaccines.

“After the largest flu vaccination season ever, community pharmacists stand ready and waiting to continue administrating vital vaccines.

“We would like to see the future COVID-19 vaccine subsidised equally for all primary healthcare professionals through the National Immunisation Program (NIP).

“All healthcare professionals should be equally subsidised through the NIP when providing the same service and give all patients the opportunity to choose the most convenient healthcare option for them at any given time.”

He noted that Australians took flu prevention very seriously in 2020, with record demand for vaccination against the disease.

“A large portion of Queenslanders have accessed their shots through their local community pharmacy, which is typically less than 2.5km away.

“Utilising community pharmacies for administering the time-critical COVID-19 vaccination will ensure rapid deployment and accessibility for many Queenslanders.”

Such a vaccine is likely to be some time away, however.

As reported in Nine newspapers on Tuesday, early vaccines may prevent infection with COVID-19 from being severe or fatal, rather than preventing them altogether.

“It’s quite possible a vaccine that only protects against severe disease would be very useful,” said Robin Shattock, an Imperial College London professor leading the development of one potential contender.

And experts from the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada have written in The Conversation that fast timelines for such a vaccine are “unrealistic”.

“We contend that a safe and effective vaccine against severe acute respiratory syndrome-coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2), which is the causative agent of coronavirus disease COVID-19, most likely cannot be made available to the public in time to make a substantial difference to the natural outcome of this pandemic,” they wrote on Tuesday.

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