Guild befuddled by dismissive attitude towards sector


The Guild has called for greater access to the COVID vaccine through pharmacy, as a CWH and TerryWhite Chemmart are added to the state’s watch list

Less than 90,000 Western Australians have received their first COVID-19 vaccine, the Pharmacy Guild of Australia noted in a statement on Sunday.

According to Tuesday’s WA Health COVID-19 update, that number now stands at 89,671 (of whom 21,159 have had both doses).

“The Commonwealth Government’s COVID-19 vaccine national roll-out strategy is in such a state of turmoil that it has forced the National Cabinet to meet twice weekly to try to reset its course,” the Guild’s WA branch said, while the state was still in lockdown.

It said that “the real issue has been left to one side”.

“The lack of an effective COVID-19 national roll-out strategy has led to less than adequate access to the vaccine and consequently its poor uptake,” the Guild said.

WA Branch President, Andrew Ngeow said, “Ensuring the safety of more than two and a half million Western Australians requires access to vaccines and currently, the national strategy is failing in that area badly.”

The Guild noted that community pharmacy, through statements by Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Minister for Health Greg Hunt, has repeatedly been assured that it would be a part of the roll-out and over 4,000 pharmacists have applied to participate.

Originally scheduled to administer vaccines from Phase 2A of the roll-out in May, these health professionals are “now completely unaware of when they are to receive approval, and an appropriate number of vaccines to provide to their patients,” the Guild says.

“Worse still, last week’s two meetings of the National Cabinet provided little reassurance for these pharmacists, and failed to announce a clear, agreed national strategy. Rather, the conversation focussed on expensive mass vaccination centres that are yet to be established, appropriately resourced or staffed.”

“We are baffled by the dismissive attitude to use of community pharmacy and dismayed by the slow and bureaucratic approach to the vaccine roll-out, which has plunged the Anzac Day plans of all Western Australians into disarray and put the safety of West Australians at risk,” Mr Ngeow said.

“Isolation quarantine, whilst necessary, is only a part of the solution. The real and much larger priority for Western Australians is in their access to vaccination.

“We are calling on the Commonwealth Government to expedite its plans and ensure that community pharmacy is immediately brought on board to enable this,” Mr Ngeow said.

The Guild notes that pharmacists have completed the same mandatory COVID-19 vaccination training as the GPs and nurses, and pharmacies have appropriate consultation rooms set up and ready to utilise.  

It says the Western Australian Government is extremely supportive of the involvement of community pharmacy, however currently the issue is that approval for that to occur, and the distribution of the vaccine, are decisions for the Commonwealth Government.

“Community pharmacies are the most accessible primary health care destination, with 97 per cent of all Australians live within 2.5km of a community pharmacy. We are therefore ideally placed to deliver the COVID-19 vaccine,” Mr Ngeow said. “It is befuddling that there is any resistance to accessing this resource.”

“It has been over two months since the Health Minister Greg Hunt announced that ‘the eagle has landed’ when the first shipment of Pfizer vaccines arrived in Australia,” Mr Ngeow said.

“There are supplies of the COVID-19 vaccine in Western Australia which could be administered through community pharmacy right now. 

“There is simply no good reason not to immediately allow this to happen, only more disruptions, costs and negative health outcomes should this not occur.”

People who had been to the Chemist Warehouse at Joondalup on Thursday April 22, between 8 and 9pm, are advised to be tested for COVID-19 and monitor for symptoms.

The TerryWhite Chemmart at Kardinya is also on the watch list, with people who visited on the same date between 7.10pm and 8.30pm advised to do the same.

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