Intern vax approval

Pharmacy interns in NSW can now vaccinate for COVID-19 under new standards

Pharmacy interns can now administer the COVID-19 vaccine under the supervision of a qualified pharmacist immuniser, under new standards published by NSW Health.

The move comes after community pharmacy owners queried why their interns weren’t allowed to vaccinate for COVID-19 yet were able to provide flu shots and other vaccines, while students were able to administer COVID-19 shots at the hubs.

Following completion of accredited training, interns may now administer specified COVID-19 vaccines under “direct supervision” of a pharmacist immuniser who holds certification to vaccinate for the relevant vaccine.

David Heffernan, NSW branch president of the Pharmacy Guild, told AJP they’ve been in constant communication with NSW Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant and her team to gain the result.

“It’s welcome news, interns are qualified vaccinators when they come out of university and the simple fact is that they will be able to vaccinate,” he said.

“We welcome the news in removing the restrictions, it will help with the workflow of pharmacies because some people are feeling the burden, there is a high demand.”

Mr Heffernan said NSW is “really taking off” with vaccinations, with the state administering over 60% of the near 20,000 COVID-19 pharmacy vaccines nationwide in the last 24 hours.

“This is still coming off a low base, some people are still waiting for the [Pfizer] vaccine but it’s an impressive number,” he said.

The news that interns have been given the tick of approval will be welcome for the south-west and western Sydney pharmacies that are currently “under duress”.

Earlwood proprietor Alex Papadimitriou had recently queried why intern pharmacists who are fully trained immunisers were not allowed to vaccinate for COVID-19 in NSW, but a second-year pharmacy student with no previous training or experience was able to administer at the hubs.

“My intern has given dozens of flu shots, why can’t she give a COVID shot? To me, this is a waste of the workforce we have and a bit of an insult to our profession,” he said.

Western Sydney pharmacy proprietor Catherine Bronger had also asked, “interns are now able to deliver other vaccines in community pharmacy—why not COVID?

“Many of the interns are in their final six months of practice and will likely play a big role if we are tasked with booster shots,” she said.

“There is so much increased pressure with lockdowns, changes in business as we add layers of protective measures, chasing scripts as the doctors move to telehealth … we need to be able to resource our businesses and utilise all the skill sets within the small businesses to deliver vaccinations.”

In the newly updated standards, NSW Health has also added the Moderna Spikevax vaccine as well as the inclusion to complete Commonwealth training modules specific to the COVID-19 vaccine, which will include Moderna once it becomes available, said Mr Heffernan.

The Guild’s NSW branch is also lobbying against any moves to push for workers to be vaccinated by a certain date.

Mr Heffernan said south west and western Sydney pharmacies are already under pressure and adding further burdens on them is “not fair”.

However, it’s a simple fact that some pharmacy industry workers are still on waiting lists to get Pfizer, he said.

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