Queensland pharmacists are now able to vaccinate 16-year-olds, amid an early start to this year’s flu season
Trent Twomey, Queensland branch president of the Pharmacy Guild, welcomed the Queensland Government’s decision to allow community pharmacists to vaccinate patients aged 16 and over, from Friday 5 April.
The decision arose from last year’s Queensland Parliamentary Inquiry into community pharmacy, he said.
“This week, we have seen the strain on emergency departments throughout Queensland with unprecedented diagnoses and admissions of influenza,” he said.
“While there are people at high risk of the flu, including those aged 65 and above, the flu can in fact strike anyone, even the young, fit and healthy. In fact, one-in-four people who are hospitalised with the flu have no underlying medical condition.
“We must build ‘community immunity’ against the flu through vaccination, which helps to not only protect ourselves but also our loved ones.
“This simple step will allow more Queenslanders, and especially young people, to have better protection against the most commonly circulating viral strains predicted for this year’s flu season.”
Between 31 December 2018 and 31 March 2019 there have already been 6,606 flu notifications in Queensland, nearly three times the average over the last five years.
The Courier-Mail reports that hundreds of people hospitalised across the state and around 50 admitted to intensive care.
The Guild had warned Australians late last month that nearly one in 10 Australians admitted to hospital with flu end up in intensive care.
As at 1 April, there have been a total of 21,402 laboratory confirmed notifications of flu in Australia for 2019. That number was 10,401 at the start of April in 2018.
Mr Twomey urged the Palaszczuk Government to follow the lead of several other jurisdictions around the country and immediately make the National Immunisation Program available to community pharmacies.
“This will ensure even more accessibility and protection to Queenslanders against this year’s influenza strains and ease the pressure we are seeing on emergency departments.
“The Guild looks forward to working with all Queensland MPs to provide the best care for all Queenslanders by supporting a community pharmacy network that continues to put patients first.”
The Pharmaceutical Society’s Queensland branch also welcomed the decision to lower the age for pharmacist-administered vaccinations.
“Allowing trained pharmacists to administer vaccines will significantly increase the immunisation rates within the community and reduce the incidence of vaccine-preventable diseases,” said PSA Queensland acting president Chris Campbell.
“The administration of vaccines by pharmacists complements the excellent work done by GPs, nurses, Indigenous Health Workers and other immunisers,” he said. “It increases the immunisation rate and has a positive effect on people’s health in Queensland.
“As the peak national body for pharmacists, PSA has advocated for many years to allow pharmacists to deliver more vaccinations to a wider age range of patients and for provision of pharmacist access to NIP stock. We will continue to work closely with the Queensland Government to achieve this.”
Pharmacists in Queensland have been instrumental in progressing pharmacist-administered vaccination services in Australia through the Queensland Pharmacists Immunisation Pilot (QPIP) in 2014, he said.
Mr Campbell commended the Queensland Government for making use of pharmacists’ expertise and training to better protect the community against vaccine-preventable diseases.
Queensland’s Chief Health Officer Dr Jeannette Young said the timing of flu vaccination should be considered.
“The latest expert advice is that while protection from vaccination is expected to last for the whole season, the best protection is provided in the three to four months following vaccination,” she said.
“Flu season in Queensland is typically from June to September, with the peak usually in August.
“That’s why we recommend vaccinating sometime between mid-April through to the end of May, to ensure the best protection during the peak of the season.
“It’s also important for the public to be aware that the vaccine isn’t immediately effective – it generally takes 10 to 14 days to be fully protected after vaccination.
“Everyone needs to be vigilant when it comes to the flu, as the complications can be deadly.
“The message remains the same: get vaccinated every year because it is the best way of protecting yourself against the flu.
“Basic hygiene practices will also alleviate the spread of flu, such as proper hand washing, covering a cough with a tissue, and staying home when sick.”