Left out again


“Confusion and frustration” are rife over the seeming exclusion of community pharmacy from COVID vaccine rollout plans, a Guild leader says

Community pharmacy is expressing “confusion and frustration” over its omission from initial federal government COVID vaccine strategies, a senior Guild leader says.

Writing in the NSW Guild Bulletin, state Pharmacy Guild president, David Heffernan says: “It is remarkable, in the advent of a COVID vaccine rollout early 2021, community pharmacy appears to be absent from the federal COVID vaccine strategy.”

“At the time of writing, much confusion and frustration has been expressed throughout the industry on the TGA’s approach to distribution of the vaccine.”

Mr Heffernan says there is a “public expectation” that community pharmacy will be part of the vaccine rollout, given the sector’s vital role in the COVID and bushfire emergencies, and its role in vaccinating around 3 million Australians for influenza in 2020.

However, community pharmacy had not been included in any of the advisory groups created to plan the vaccine distribution, he said. 

While a number of advisory groups had been created with “terms of reference including the distribution of the vaccines”, none currently included anyone with current or previous experience of distribution, nor any community pharmacy representation.

“The Minister’s office has told me personally they see community pharmacy as part of the vaccination strategy,” he said, adding this was “unlikely with regard to one of the vaccines which is envisioned to be administered in hospital only.”

“With the COVID and bushfire emergencies stretching the primary health care system, community pharmacies stayed open to serve patients and ensure the continued availability of medicines, products and services…. It would be fair to say there is a public expectation community pharmacy would be part of the solution.”

The Guild would continue to make representation on the topic, he added. 

Doctor’s groups have been vocal in their opposition to community pharmacy involvement in the COVID vaccination rollout.

AMA national president, Dr Omar Khorshid said pharmacy was “a retail space trying to sell you products”.

In a recent AJP poll, 52% of respondents expressed confidence in administering a COVID-19 vaccine.

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