GPs are at the centre of Australia’s fast-tracked COVID vaccination strategy, but there seems no role for pharmacy, despite overseas colleagues involvement
Plans for Australia’s COVID-19 are being revealed following the Federal government’s announcement it was bringing forward the rollout to February.
Speaking on ABC Radio this week, Health Minister Greg Hunt said three groups would be included in the first vaccination round.
“Firstly, we have the frontline workers, in particular, such as the international facing ones, the hotel quarantine, borders, others that are involved in that. Secondly, health workers and thirdly, residential aged care facility residents, so aged care residents.
That’s the first round and then we’ll work through it in terms of age and other priorities, which are currently being finalised by the medical expert panel, but progressively working down in age and where there are other vulnerabilities in terms of disability or certain Indigenous age groups and others, then they’ll all be identified. But that medical advice is still just being finalised”.
The Pfizer vaccine would be available in February, with the AstraZeneca vaccine coming onto line in March, he said.
Mr Hunt said at a commonwealth level they were not mandating frontline health workers should have the vaccine, but “obviously, the states have the capacity to consider any specific workplace,” he added.
Australian Medical Association vice-president Dr Chris Moy said he understood that GPs would be at the centre of the vaccination strategy.
“Certainly GPs have certainly been at the forefront of this, given our really good experience in terms of the mass vaccinations of influenza in a safe way, but also making sure that we do cross the T’s and dot the I’s in terms of making sure that it’s given safely, and also that the recording and all the other things that need to be done with vaccination is done properly,” he said.
Dr Moy said he understood that hospitals “will be part of this as well, particularly for hospital staff. And also there may be other groups as well, such as Aboriginal health centres, for example, which will be very key in those communities as well”.
At the moment the TGA was aiming to have have the vaccine approval processes completed around the end of January, he said.
“After that, there are a lot of logistical issues… We’re trying not to end up in a situation that’s happened in the UK and also the US, where there’s been a fair bit of chaos in the way they’ve done it, and there’s been a lot of, let’s put it this way, more haste and less speed, because you’ve heard in the US, for example, they’re getting out only about 15 or 25 per cent of the vaccinations that they have at the moment.
It’s the actual process of vaccination… There are a lot of practical issues, like making sure that we can overcome some of the storage and transport issues, particularly for the Pfizer vaccine which requires storage under minus 70 degrees.
But also making sure that before we vaccinate everybody, we have normal processes of checks – including education of the community to make sure that they know what they’re getting; that there’s the pre-vaccination checklist; that there’s a normal consent, because before we can give a vaccination, we have to go through a consent process; that there’s recording of the vaccinations so that we can keep up with whether they’re on their first or second vaccination. And that this can be done in a quick and COVID-safe way”.
Pharmacy central in the UK
Meanwhile, UK high street pharmacies will be offer shots of the Oxford/AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine from next week as part of the government’s push to immunise more than 13 million of the most vulnerable people in the UK before mid-February.
The pharmacies will offer shots of the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine either on their premises or at designated sites following a National Health Service approval process that began in November, The Guardian reports.
The health service is assessing 200 sites led by community pharmacies such as Boots and Lloyds which have committed to delivering more than 1,000 shots each a week. The sites will start to receive doses now the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine has been approved.
“We are going to see pharmacies playing a really big role in vaccination,” said Robbie Turner, director of pharmacy at the Royal Pharmaceutical Society. “The numbers of shots that can be delivered will be significant compared with the total number being delivered from sites that are already in operation.”