COVID vax: pharmacy has a key role


Australia statistics Board pharmacists

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.

To date, the pandemic has highlighted the importance of pharmacies and pharmacists to the Australian healthcare system and public health, said the authors, who included former PSA national president Shane Jackson.
 
“It has revealed new roles that pharmacists can fulfil during a public health crisis. Trained pharmacist vaccinators, across all Australian jurisdictions, should be included in the health workforce planning to enable quick and large-scale COVID-19 vaccination in order to achieve herd immunity”.

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.

“During the COVID-19 pandemic, despite emerging challenges, internationally and nationally pharmacists are playing a key role in community and public health. While many medical centres closed or went online, pharmacies remained open and pharmacists continued to deliver services to the public and enable continuity of medication supply”. 
 
“In addition, pharmacists are involved in the mitigation of COVID-19, through screening, disease prevention education, supply of personal protective equipment, and point of care COVID-19 testing in some jurisdictions”.

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

 
 

 

 

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