Western Australia is the latest state to expand pharmacist vaccination, allowing several vaccines to be administered to 16-year-olds
WA Health Minister Roger Cook has announced that pharmacists will be able to administer the dTpa (diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis), MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) and meningococcal (ACWY) vaccines to people aged 16 years and over.
The announcement was made at the Guild’s Pharmacy WA Forum on Thursday.
The move has been welcomed by the PSA and Pharmacy Guild.
“Allowing trained pharmacists to administer these vaccines will significantly increase the immunisation rates within the community,” said PSA state branch president Dr Fei Sim.
“While Australia has a strong childhood vaccination program, there are many areas in Australia with vaccination rates still below the level of coverage required for herd immunity, including for dTpa and MMR. Pharmacists can play a key role in addressing this issue.”
She cited international and local research which showed that pharmacists are considered highly accessible. The PSA believes enabling them to vaccinate against more preventable diseases will help reduce the burden on our already over-burdened healthcare system.
Independent research commissioned by PSA showed almost two-in-three Australians believe pharmacists should be able to administer a broader range of vaccinations.
The recent increase in measles cases in Australia, highlights the need to increase the accessibility of this vaccine and the need for a national approach to pharmacist-administered vaccinations, says Dr Sim.
“PSA continues to advocate for a national approach to pharmacist-administered vaccinations to reduce confusion, ensure better access for patients to quality vaccination services and utilise the pharmacy workforce appropriately,” she said.
“The introduction of pharmacist-administered MMR vaccinations in Western Australia is a great step forward, leaving Tasmania and the ACT as the only two jurisdictions where pharmacists cannot vaccinate against these diseases.”
She said the administration of vaccines by pharmacists complements the excellent work done by GPs, nurses, Indigenous Health Workers and other immunisers.
Meanwhile the Guild noted that the Health Department has recommended that anyone born during or after 1966 get the measles vaccine.
This announcement demonstrates that the Minister understands and supports the role of community pharmacy in providing greater access to the West Australian community, it said.
“We acknowledge the Government for acting to protect our community by providing access to these life-saving vaccines for all West Australians no matter where they live,” said WA Guild branch president Andrew Ngeow.
“There are community pharmacies in 40 towns with no GP service. We look forward to a comprehensive vaccination program raising the level of protection and bringing immunisation within easier reach for all West Australians.”
WA is the single largest health jurisdiction in the world, the Guild noted, which means it can be difficult to get equity of service and frontline health care to everyone close to where they live.
The Guild also noted the recent Health Department review of community pharmacy, which provided 23 recommendations to increase access, use the existing workforce better and get trained health professionals to work at the top of scope.
Trained pharmacists will offer these additional vaccination services in increasing numbers over the coming weeks, it said.
The Guild also observed that more than 1,000,000 safe influenza vaccines have been provided in Australian community pharmacies since 2015 and in WA pharmacies will provide an estimated 120,000 flu vaccines in 2019 alone.
Mr Ngeow also called on the state branch of the Australian Medical Association to support the move.
Newly elected AMA branch president Dr Andrew Miller has been vocal in condemning the review and its recommendations that pharmacist services such as vaccination be expanded.
“Given the WA AMA’s past record of opposing such measures to improve patient access to vaccinations, we urge the AMA and all doctor groups to put public health first and support this beneficial measure,” Mr Ngeow said.
“Our pharmacists have great relationships with and respect for general practitioners in the community and will continue to work collaboratively with them in a combined effort to improve public health.
“This measure is about putting patients and public health first.”