Getting the jab

Which Australians are getting their influenza vaccination in pharmacies, and why? New research provides some answers 

Despite new policies allowing pharmacists around Australia to administer influenza vaccines, most Australian adults are still vaccinated in medical settings, new research has confirmed.

A survey of 1,444 adults, undertaken in October 2019, has found that almost three-quarters (73%) received the influenza vaccine in a medical setting.

In total 13% received the flu vaccine at a pharmacy, while 14% got the vaccine at their workplace. 

Those under 65 years of age, who were married and who did not having a high‐risk comorbidity were more likely to  go to a pharmacy for vaccination, the research revealed.

“There was a significant association between age and pharmacy vaccination”, the authors said, with a greater proportion of pharmacy vaccination occurring in those under age 65 compared to those over 65.

Pharmacy vaccination was also associated with gender, having an annual household income of at least $90,000, having a regular GP or medical practice, and not having a high‐risk chronic comorbidity, they added. 

The most frequently mentioned reason for being vaccinated in a pharmacy setting was ‘Convenience’ (52% of those vaccinated in pharmacy), which was broken down into four distinct sub‐themes: ‘It is easy/convenient to get vaccinated at this provider’ (19%); ‘The location of this provider is close to home/easy to get to’ (15%); ‘Bookings are not required or can be made online’ (10%); and ‘Was already in the area for another reason’ (8%).

The second most frequently mentioned reason was ‘Cost’ (30.5%), which was broken down into two distinct sub‐themes: ‘The vaccine was cheap at this provider’ (26.3%); and ‘Vaccine was reimbursed by employer’ (5.3%).

The third most frequently mentioned reason was ‘Needed to have the vaccination done quickly’ (12.6%). Other reasons that were mentioned included ‘Trust in the provider’ (7.4%); ‘Prompted by provider’ (1.1%); and ‘No reason/just because’ (2.1%).

The study “offers valuable data on where Australians receive their influenza vaccinations after all states and territories began allowing trained pharmacists to administer vaccines,” the authors said.

“While pharmacies and workplaces may offer convenient, low‐cost alternatives for vaccination, the majority of Australians are still being vaccinated for influenza in a GP’s office or medical centre.

Further research is needed to determine how to best promote influenza vaccination in all three settings, as they appear to cater to different populations with different motivations”.

The researchers, from the University of NSW highlighted the important role that pharmacists can, and should, play in immunisation, a role they said was highlighted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“In addition to their role as immunisers against seasonal influenza, pharmacists can play an important role as immunisers in pandemic situations,” they said.

“Modelling studies in the US have found that, assuming high pandemic influenza vaccine demand, including pharmacists as immunisers can decrease the time needed to reach 80% national vaccine coverage by seven weeks and can potentially prevent millions of influenza cases.”

The study was published in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health

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