Flu vax surveillance includes pharmacists for first time


vaccine vaccination needle

A new pilot program aims to monitor the effects of influenza vaccines administered by pharmacists this flu season – and could potentially roll out to a coronavirus vaccine

The new program is led by The University of Western Australia, in partnership with SmartVax, MedAdvisor and the Queensland University of Technology, and according to the researchers, when the novel COVID-19 vaccine becomes available the program could monitor its effects through pharmacies.

They say that the program aims to fill a void where no surveillance program exists to monitor the effects of immunisation from in-pharmacy vaccinations.

The pilot is supported by a $40,000 grant from the JM O’Hara Research Fund of the Pharmaceutical Society of Western Australia.

Project lead Sandra Salter from the UWA School of Allied Health/Pharmacy noted the expanded powers of vaccination enjoyed by pharmacists in Western Australia.

“Last year children over the age of 10 were added, as well as other vaccines including measles, mumps and rubella, whooping cough, tetanus and meningococcal,” Dr Salter said.

“It is especially important for people to be immunised against flu this year, with overlapping COVID-19 and influenza infections predicted.

“Central to the project is active vaccine surveillance, which is particularly important for vaccines that change such as the flu vaccine, and for new vaccines.

“For the first time worldwide, a four-strain flu vaccine specifically formulated for people 65 years and older is available and we will be monitoring it, along with all vaccines, in pharmacies.”

Dr Salter said that SmartVax is a well-established system for vaccine surveillance in Australia, receiving data from GP sites as well as local government immunisation clinics and hospital immunisation clinics.

Until now, though, pharmacist immunisers have not been included.

“Bringing pharmacists a real-time surveillance system for adverse events following immunisation is essential,” she said.

Dr Salter told the AJP that while the pilot is to take place in WA only, the system is scaleable (essentially instantly) and it would be possible, should the 2020 pilot in WA be successful, to extend the program nationally early in 2021.

The program will use established technology from SmartVax and MedAdvisor to create a world-leading immunisation-effects monitoring program.

Founder of SmartVax and GP Dr Alan Leeb said the SmartVax team was excited to partner in an important project that would significantly enhance the safety of immunisation delivery across Australia.

”This project is a gateway to being able to monitor adverse events for any new vaccine, at the population level,” Dr Leeb said.

“Pharmacy will certainly play an important role in the rapid deployment of a COVID-19 vaccine when this does become available, and monitoring the effects will be more important than ever.

”Patients who receive immunisations at participating pharmacies will automatically be sent text messages to monitor adverse events following immunisation. Pharmacists will then be to able provide support when needed.

“Pharmacists will have the capacity to report vaccine safety information back to GPs as well as the WA Health Department. The data collated will not identify individuals, meaning patient details will be kept confidential.”

Robert Read, CEO of MedAdvisor, said the current COVID-19 situation has very much highlighted the critical role of pharmacists and the importance of vaccinations.

“Leveraging digital solutions such as MedAdvisor’s PlusOne pharmacy software and our linkage with SmartVax is a highly effective and scalable way to monitor adverse events and improve medication safety especially when new vaccines are introduced,” he said.

“We are excited to be participating in this program and look forward to continue to support pharmacies through smart technology.”

If the trial is successful, the program could be rolled out more broadly across Australia in 2021 in time for a coronavirus vaccine.

Pharmacies interested in participating can find more information here.

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