Doc group ‘misguided and ill-informed’ on flu vax: Dowling

Doctor criticism of Tasmania’s decision to allow pharmacists to vaccinate 10-year-olds against flu reflects a “sad lack of understanding of patient needs,” says the Guild’s Tasmanian president

John Dowling, president of the Pharmacy Guild’s Tasmanian Branch, has described doctor criticism of the Tasmanian Government’s Winter Demand Management Plan as “misguided and ill-informed”.

This week Tasmanian Minister for Health Michael Ferguson announced the plan, which among several strategies will allow community pharmacists to administer low-cost flu vaccinations for children aged 10 and over.

As highlighted by Mr Ferguson, this is an Australian first.

Doctors condemned the plan, with RACGP President, Harry Nespolon saying that the decision could put young patients at risk and that pharmacists did not have the medical training required to safely deliver vaccinations and respond to associated risks.

“These unfounded claims by the RACGP are simply untrue, and are quite frankly getting old and stale,” said the Guild’s John Dowling in response.

“The facts are that pharmacists have been administering the flu vaccine since 2015 across Australia without any severe reactions or negative effects to patients.

“Pharmacists are specifically trained, in immunisation, including in first aid, how to handle adverse effects and anaphylaxis.

“Pharmacists are also highly trusted, and the trust that the Tasmanian Government and Tasmanians have in community pharmacy was clearly reflected in the meningococcal immunisation program that saw pharmacists vaccinate children aged 10 and up.

“More and more people are receiving the flu vaccine from their local pharmacies and last year we saw between 900,000 and 1 million people around the country get the vaccine at their local pharmacy. 

“With the severe flu season we are already experiencing this year pharmacists across the county are likely to vaccinate even more people than last year, which means that the messages to get vaccinated are getting through.”

Mr Dowling said this was great news as it shows community pharmacists are making a difference in keeping people well and keeping people out of hospitals.

“But clearly the facts don’t suit the RACGP narrative,” he said.

“Perhaps the RACGP should listen to its own members because most doctors recognise that providing this service in pharmacies means GPs have more time to consult with other consumers who are unwell.  

“The fact is that local community pharmacists and local GPs work extremely well together.

“Instead of focusing on fabrications and spreading vitriol, the RACGP should be out there promoting vaccinations as the best way to protect people from the flu. 

“There needs to be a refocus on the responsibilities that we all, as healthcare workers, have to the communities we serve.”

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