Pharmacists can, and should, play a key role in the national roll out of mass COVID-19 vaccination, say researchers
Fully utilising the national network of pharmacists is essential to achieve herd immunisation against COVID-19, with benefits in size and speed of reach, as well as potential cost savings, academics believe.
A literature review conducted by academics from the University of Canberra and the University of Tasmania examined Australian healthcare workforce capability and existing policy for mass vaccination and the potential role of the pharmacist.
Vaccination against COVID-19 utilising pharmacists should be no more or less costly than utilising nurse immunisers or GPs, they said.
“They should receive the same reimbursement for service delivery as those other health professionals”.
However, what pharmacy does do is “expand reach and access, when timeliness and capacity are going to be paramount. It also leverages off an existing network of immunisers with supply mechanisms via wholesalers,” the authors said.
There may be cost savings to the government associated with a more rapid roll out of mass vaccination (e.g., reduction in hospitalisation costs, work and school absenteeism), which will enable faster economic recovery.
The research highlighted the critical need for the government to consider Australia’s healthcare workforce in preparation for mass vaccination, the authors said.
This includes aspects of immunisation threshold, vaccine delivery, vaccine clinic locations and hours of operation, staffing arrangements, vaccine administration training, and strategies for vaccine prioritisation.
“When examining state and territory pandemic plans, pharmacists are underutilised,” the authors said.
Modifying legislation to allow pharmacists to administer approved COVID-19 vaccines will enable a trained and skilled workforce to be deployed to increase the rate of mass vaccination, they concluded.
Pharmacy groups have previously called for the profession to play a major role in the vaccination program.
“If a mass vaccination scheme is to be successful then then Government must engage pharmacists to administer the vaccines to the broader public,” said Dr Chris Freeman, PSA national president.
“PSA continues to call on state and territory governments to make legislative amendments now so that approved COVID-19 vaccines can be administered by pharmacists when available”.
The research was published in the journal Pharmacy