Another 900 general practices are set to start delivering the COVID-19 vaccine… but where are the pharmacies?
On Thursday the Victorian Government announced that it would be moving to “circuit breaker restrictions” from 11.59pm that night. These settings are expected to remain in place until 11.59pm on 3 June, but the Government says that if it can end the lockdown sooner, it will.
The move is in response to the outbreak of COVID-19 in Melbourne, which as at Thursday afternoon had reached 26 cases, after doubling in 24 hours. One person is currently in intensive care and on a ventilator.
The Government is particularly concerned at the speed with which the B1.617.1 variant is moving, it says, with the time between contracting the novel coronavirus and passing it on appears to be shrinking, in many cases to just over a day.
“We also know our nation’s vaccine rollout has been slower than we’d hoped,” said acting premier James Merlino.
“And if more people were vaccinated, we might be facing a different set of circumstances. Sadly, we’re not.
“If we make the wrong choice now, if we wait too long, if we hesitate too much, this thing will get away from us. And lives will be at risk.”
He said that there will be five reasons permitted to leave home: “Food and supplies. Authorised work. Care and caregiving. Exercise, for up to two hours and with one other person. And getting vaccinated.”
The state government also announced that the Commonwealth’s COVID-19 vaccination program will again expand in Victoria to include everyone aged 40 years and over.
From Friday 28 May Victorians aged 40-49 years will be able to access to the Pfizer vaccine at state-run vaccination sites.
Victorians aged 50 years and over will continue to receive the AstraZeneca vaccine, either through a state-run vaccination centre or a participating GP clinic.
Meanwhile the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) welcomed news that 900 additional general practices will begin delivering the AstraZeneca vaccine.
Expressions of Interest open Thursday and close Monday, with the practices to be allocated 150 doses a week and commencing vaccinations mid-June. Accredited and non-accredited practices that participate in the National Immunisation Program can apply and a key focus will be bringing on board practices in areas where there are currently no GPs involved in the vaccine rollout.
All while over 800 community pharmacies deemed “suitable” through an EOI process to participate in the #COVID19Vaccine roll out sit on the bench waiting to be subbed on the field and actually receive stock @PharmGuildAus @MartinFoleyMP @VictorianCHO @VicGovDH https://t.co/mMk5UpA0J8
— Anthony Tassone (@A_Tass1) May 26, 2021
Anthony Tassone, Victorian branch president of the Pharmacy Guild, again questioned why with a few exceptions, pharmacies are not yet being utilised in the vaccine rollout.
Last week Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt announced that 56 regional Queensland pharmacies would be vaccinating against the disease over the coming weeks – but aside from this rural access initiative, the full Stage Three rollout in community pharmacy is now not expected until at least September, probably October or November.
“Almost 12 months to the day since the commencement of the second wave of the COVID pandemic in Victoria, we enter another seven day lockdown for the state,” Mr Tassone told the AJP.
“Community pharmacies, as an essential service, will remain open throughout the lockdown period that commences from midnight tonight, on Thursday evening.
“Along with the previous ‘four reasons you can leave home’ there has been a fifth reason added, of Victorians being able to leave home: and that is to be vaccinated with the COVID-19 vaccine.
“It’s a travesty that community pharmacies stand ready on the sidelines watching the game unfold before them and have been held back from taking the field by the Victorian government to help the team get the job done.
“Over 800 community pharmacies have been deemed ‘suitable’ by the Commonwealth Department of Health through the expression of interest process to participate in the Australian Government COVID-19 vaccination program.
“That’s over 800 COVID-19 vaccination clinics sitting idle none the wiser when they can help protect their patients and communities as we enter another seven-day lockdown.”
Mr Tassone said that every day across Australia, patients are asking their local pharmacy when they’re able to receive a COVID vaccination from them.
“A lot has been made about vaccine hesitancy in the community through the media but what can’t be understated is how many patients are wanting to receive the vaccine but can’t from their local pharmacy or choice,” he said.
“The time has well and truly come, we’re almost in overtime in the game, let the super-sub off the bench and onto the field – State and Territory governments must activate pharmacies now for the COVID-19 vaccine program.”
The Priceline Pharmacy at Barkly Square has now been added to Victoria’s list of exposure sites, from 1.15pm to 2.30pm on 22 May, as a Tier 2 site.
This is in addition to the Chemist Warehouse at Dalton Village, Epping on 19 May, from 6.45pm to 8pm; and the Chemist Depot Epping, at Pacific Epping Shopping Centre, from 11.15am to midday on May 23.
People who have been at Tier 2 sites are asked to be tested urgently and isolate until they have a negative result.