Lack of pharmacy vax access ‘beggars belief’


Community pharmacist insider shares why the network hasn’t been activated to vaccinate for COVID-19 yet, even as Victoria undergoes another lockdown

Supply limitations and concerns about stock availability continue to be the barriers to the COVID-19 vaccine rolling out in pharmacy, says Anthony Tassone, Victorian branch president of the Pharmacy Guild.

“The Guild has been in ongoing contact with the Victorian Minister for Health and Department of Health over the weekend, imploring them to activate community pharmacies in Victoria to deliver COVID vaccinations,” Mr Tassone told AJP.

“Limitations of supply and certainty of future deliveries of vaccine stock continue to be the barriers put to the Guild as to why pharmacies have not been activated in Victoria.”

He said Victorian Minister for Health Martin Foley continues to blame limits on supply as the reason why pharmacies aren’t included yet and have not given a timeline or any indication as to when community pharmacies may be added to the COVID vaccination plan.

“The Guild has reached out to the Federal Minister for Health, Greg Hunt’s office to seek further assistance working with the Victorian government of whether additional stock can be allocated to to address this,” said Mr Tassone, who is the co-owner of a Melbourne community pharmacy.

“Over 800 community pharmacies in Victoria have been approved to deliver the COVID vaccination, yet look on from the sidelines as queues of up to six hours build up at mass vaccination centres or patients turned away,” he said.

“Every day in pharmacies across Victoria – from Mildura to Gippsland and in between – there are ready, willing and eligible patients being turned away from being vaccinated as pharmacies don’t have stock and don’t know when they will.

“For a state in its fourth lockdown, this beggars belief that eligible patients can’t access the vaccine from their local pharmacy, may have to wait weeks for a GP appointment or can’t get through the booking system to attend a mass vaccination hub.

“Whether one thinks the vaccine roll out is a ‘race’ or not – what we know is pharmacies aren’t even on the track and the relay team needs help for the next leg to help finish the job.

“If State and Federal governments could just put on hold their war of words for a moment and sort out activation of community pharmacies to help patients get vaccinated and protected – then we can take our next step on the road to recovery.”

Victoria reported five new cases of COVID-19 first thing on Monday, then discovered a further six cases as the day progressed.

This brings the total number of active cases in Victoria to 54.

Acting Premier James Merlino said the Victorian government is now managing more than 4,200 primary close contacts across all exposure sites.

There is a significant number of pharmacy exposure sites linked to the positive cases including:

Chemist Depot Epping, Pacific Epping Shopping Centre
571-583 High Street
Epping VIC 3076
Exposure period – 23 May, 11:15am – 12:00pm
Tier 2 – Get tested urgently and isolate until you have a negative result

Chemist Warehouse
Shop 15, Dalton Village, 351-371 Dalton Road
Epping VIC 3076
Exposure period – 19 May, 6:45pm – 8:00pm
Tier 2 – Get tested urgently and isolate until you have a negative result

Chemist Warehouse (Epping Homemaker Center)
560-650 High Street
Epping VIC 3076
Exposure period – 17 May, 6:55pm – 7:37pm and 18 May, 6:30pm – 7:10pm
Tier 2 – Get tested urgently and isolate until you have a negative result

Chemist Warehouse Greenvale
Shop 4, 212 – 220 Greenvale Drive
Greenvale VIC 3059
Exposure period – 25 May, 12:50pm – 1:30pm
Tier 2 – Get tested urgently and isolate until you have a negative result

Chemist Warehouse Mickleham
250 – 270 Donnybrook Road
Mickleham VIC 3064
Exposure period – 22 May, 1:45pm – 2:45pm
Tier 2 – Get tested urgently and isolate until you have a negative result

My Chemist Broadway
270 Broadway
Reservoir VIC 3073
Exposure period – 25 May, 4:45pm – 5:25pm
Tier 2 – Get tested urgently and isolate until you have a negative result

Priceline Pharmacy
Barkly Square Shopping Centre, 90-160 Sydney Rd
Brunswick VIC 3056
Exposure period – 22 May, 1:15pm – 2:30pm
Tier 2 – Get tested urgently and isolate until you have a negative result

Around 4000 pharmacies have been nationally approved to join the COVID-19 vaccine rollout via expressions of interest, the Guild has confirmed.

NSW Guild branch president David Heffernan recently encouraged pharmacies to be ready to start administering the vaccinations.

“There is a real appetite at the Federal and State level to get pharmacies on board as pivotal elements of the vaccination rollout as soon as possible,” he said.

“The Guild has been working closely with the [NSW] State Government to get to the stage where pharmacies are able to help protect communities from the virus.”

AJP attempted to contact the Victorian Department of Health but could not get through by time of publication.

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