Legislative changes mean pharmacists will be required by law to report vaccination information to the Australian Immunisation Register or face fines
New laws mean vaccination providers including pharmacists will be required to report information on COVID-19 and influenza vaccinations they administer to the Australian Immunisation Register (AIR) from 1 March 2021.
Mandatory reporting of all National Immunisation Program (NIP) vaccinations will begin from 1 July 2021. Vaccination providers in some instances will also be required to report about vaccines given outside Australia which they are notified about.
The new Bill introduces a fine of $6,660 should vaccination providers not comply with the legislated requirements.
The amendments to the Australian Immunisation Register Act 2015 were introduced into Parliament in December last year, passing both houses on 4 February and given Royal Assent on 15 February.
Prior to these amendments, there was no statutory mechanism by which the Commonwealth could require vaccination providers to report vaccines administered.
The Government noted that, given its “significant investment” in the purchase and introduction of a COVID-19 vaccine, tracking and tracing of all vaccines administered to the Australian public will be essential in the months to come.
“Without a legislative change, the Commonwealth cannot enforce the mandatory reporting of COVID-19 vaccines administered, once the vaccine/s become available for clinical use,” reads the Bill’s Explanatory Memorandum.
“The proposed amendments to the AIR Act are intended to enable the Government to track and trace every COVID-19 vaccine administered.”
Health Minister Greg Hunt said the Bill will serve to benefit the health of Australians through more complete reporting of vaccinations.
“Over time, it will help increase vaccination coverage rates and the effectiveness of vaccination programs, and support the health system by informing policy for the NIP and service delivery at the local level,” he added.
Community pharmacies have been invited to express interest in participating in Phase 2A of the COVID-19 Vaccination Program and they will again play a significant role in the upcoming influenza vaccination program.
However they have previously been criticised, particularly by GP groups, after a May 2020 report found pharmacist vaccination underreporting to the AIR.
Pharmacy Guild Victorian branch president Anthony Tassone told AJP that underreporting to the register is a challenge for all health professions delivering vaccinations and “isn’t isolated or specific to one discipline”.
Mr Tassone added that the Pharmacy Guild and its members support the legislative amendments that mandate the recording of vaccinations to AIR in certain instances.