‘Gear up for unprecedented demand.’

More than 90% of pharmacies are hoping to offer the COVID-19 vaccine this year, with nearly all delivering the flu vax, according to a new survey

A MedAdvisor survey of nearly 250 pharmacies has found 92% of them are looking to offer the COVID-19 vaccine this year.

The main driver behind offering the service is to help their communities overcome the virus rather than boost revenue, most respondents said.

Meanwhile 97% of pharmacies surveyed will be providing the flu shot vaccine in store this year.

MedAdvisor flu shot data showed a 330% year-on-year spike in flu shots as Australians rushed to get immunised earlier than usual, says the e-medication management company.

Flu shot demand typically peaks in May, however last year with the COVID-19 pandemic reaching Australia, MedAdvisor saw that peak come forward with more people opting for the jab in April.

Source: MedAdvisor/Supplied.

“Pharmacists last year dealt with unprecedented demand for their services, as well as having their shelves stripped bare during panic buying and contending with all the uncertainty around the pandemic,” said MedAdvisor CEO Robert Read.

“This year, the flu shot season will align with the roll-out of COVID-19 vaccines in pharmacies – which means having a system in place to streamline the patient experience is more important than ever.”

In a message sent out to members a few months ago, Pharmacy Guild national president George Tambassis encouraged pharmacy owners to start preparing for the 2021 flu season early.

“The growth in the flu vaccine private market has been significant over the past few years, but of course 2020 saw exponential and unexpected growth in demand because of the onset of COVID-19 and because 2019 was such a bad flu season, prompting consumers to seek out vaccination in record numbers,” Mr Tambassis wrote.

“As all pharmacy owners know, 2020 saw such a surge in early demand for vaccination that many pharmacies ran out of stock, and had to wait weeks for the newly commissioned stock to be manufactured and distributed.

“Pharmacy wholesalers advised that their stock holdings are largely determined by pharmacy pre-orders and indicative delivery schedules. Pharmacies that did not do pre-orders have reported difficulty in accessing vaccines this year.

While demand in 2021 is an unknown, I think we can assume it will be higher again, as the pandemic has put health and immunity at the top of mind for us all.

George Stefanos, proprietor and pharmacist from Amcal Mordialloc, said last year his pharmacy was inundated with customers filling prescriptions, stocking up on pharmacy supplies and asking for COVID-19 related health advice.

“On top of that, we vaccinated double the amount of patients against the flu compared to 2019,” said Mr Stefanos.

“This year we expect to experience similar levels of consumer demand, with the addition of the COVID-19 vaccine which will coincide with flu season.”

Just a few weeks ago, the government announced it is seeking pharmacists to express interest in participation in the COVID-19 vaccination rollout.

Community pharmacists will be vaccinating patients from Phase 2a of the national vaccine roll-out strategy.

Pharmacies in major cities will be paid up to $42 per person – $16 for each of two jabs, and an additional $10 after the second vaccination where a patient receives both doses of the vaccine at the same community pharmacy – while the vaccine itself will be provided free of charge.

In rural and regional areas the payment will be $48 per person. Find out more information about COVID-19 vaccination for community pharmacies here.

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