One pharmacy leader has congratulated the sector on an AstraZeneca milestone – but another warns that this must be viewed as just the beginning
“We’ve got a very long way to go,” warns Pharmacy Guild national president Trent Twomey, urging pharmacists who are vaccinating against COVID-19 to target every patient, and for pharmacies which are not part of the rollout to join it.
According to data from the Australian Immunisation Register, pharmacists have now administered more than 100,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine.
Mr Twomey said he and the Guild were celebrating the fact that community pharmacies are now part of the vaccination effort – “but to be honest, I’m not going to be standing on the deck of an aircraft carrier saying, ‘Mission accomplished’ on the back of 100,000 vaccinations”.
“I need all Australian pharmacies to ensure they’re asking every single patient over the age of 18 whether they’ve had their COVID-19 vaccine, or if they would like one, every patient, every time, every visit,” he told the AJP.
“I would implore those community pharmacies – and there are 2,500 of them that have not taken up the opportunity to provide this very important service to their community – to please hop on the PPA portal and register and become providers.”
He said that community pharmacists have a responsibility not just as primary health care providers, but as members of the community, to have such conversations.
“We need them to have not 100,000 conversations, but we need them to have a million conversations, to ensure that we get the country out of lockdown and functioning the way it should be,” Mr Twomey said.
He pointed out that pharmacies serving vulnerable populations need to take this vulnerability into account when urging people to be vaccinated.
“I’m a frontline community pharmacist in Far North Queensland, and nowhere has more vulnerable populations than that, with Torres Strait Islander and Aboriginal communities, migrants and ageing regional towns – I live and breathe this every single day,” he said.
“Having been in a town that had a scare and went into a snap three-day lockdown, I would say to the rest of Australia that are looking from the outside into Sydney, don’t think it can’t happen to you.
“It will. It’s a matter of time. Vaccinate now and help protect your population, because Delta will be coming to your community.”
The PSA congratulated pharmacists for hitting the 100,000 AstraZeneca mark.
“Considering that only a fraction of Australia’s pharmacists have commenced vaccinating in recent weeks, these numbers are quite staggering,” said national president A/Prof Chris Freeman.
“Imagine the vaccination rates once all approved pharmacists are on-boarded.
“This data underpins the trust that Australians place in their local pharmacists to protect them against this deadly disease.
“I acknowledge the pharmacists who have been vaccinating through GP clinics, respiratory clinics, and vaccination hubs since day one of the vaccine rollout – they have paved the way for community pharmacist involvement in the strategy. I commend those pharmacies who have remained open beyond business hours and on weekends as they work toward safeguarding their communities.
“Vaccination by pharmacists is the patient-centric approach that Australians need and deserve – and this is the tip of the iceberg for the impact they can have on the vaccine rollout,” A/Prof Freeman said.
The mainstream media has reported on significant demand for the jab in areas where community pharmacies have been able to come on board, such as Veronica Nou, who reportedly vaccinated 10% of Oxley Park’s residents in a week.
Ms Nou told Fairfax media that she had wondered whether her “tiny” pharmacy would attract interest from the public, but said the phone has been “ringing off the hook”.
“The response has been crazy, people are cancelling second appointments elsewhere to come here. We have been flat chat, we are doing one every 10 minutes,” she said.
Meanwhile Tasmania, the latest state to allow pharmacists on board, has begun vaccinating over-60s with AstraZeneca – though community pharmacists here are not yet able to vaccinate younger residents.
The Examiner reports that it is hoped 46 pharmacies in the island state will be taking vaccination bookings by the end of the week.