‘More skill and training than is available at a shopping centre pharmacy.’

Pharmacist administers a vaccine. Source: PSA.
Pharmacist administers a vaccine. Source: PSA.

Doctors have again slammed the idea of pharmacists vaccinating against COVID-19, saying they will be inadequately skilled and trained

The Australian Medical Association’s Queensland branch issued a statement saying that patient safety must take priority over convenience when it comes to delivering the COVID-19 vaccines.

A vaccine is hoped by federal Health officials to begin rolling out in Australia around March.

AMA Queensland President Professor Chris Perry said general practices were the safest and most sensible locations for vaccine delivery.

“A new vaccine is likely to involve a two-dose regimen over a few weeks, and use multi-dose vials, which requires more skill and training than is available at a shopping centre pharmacy,” Prof Perry said.

“GPs also understand their patients’

individual health histories and can respond quickly in the unlikely event of an adverse reaction.”

Prof Perry said fostering trust was essential to safeguarding the community.

“These vaccines are very new and many people will feel nervous about taking something that has been developed relatively quickly,” he said.

“To encourage maximum uptake, we need to be abundantly cautious and provide vaccinations in a medically supervised environment.

“Naturally, priority will be given to front-line workers and vulnerable groups but it will take some time to find out how effective the vaccines are in reducing the severity of the coronavirus infection.”

His words echoed those of AMA national president Dr Omar Khorsid, who told Fairfax Media this month that “The motivation of getting patients into the pharmacy is to get them using that as a health hub”.

“Our view is the appropriate home for that is with a doctor, who is not trying to sell you anything else.

“Pharmacy is an important part of primary care, but also a retail space trying to sell you products.”

Responding to Dr Khorshid’s comments, Pharmaceutical Society of Australia’s national president, Dr Chris Freeman, had expressed disappointment.

“Medical groups that are promoting these false turf wars should refocus on what our objective as health care professionals are and that is ensuring the health of the public moving forward,” he said.

The Department of Health has confirmed that pharmacy will be part of the COVID-19 vaccine rollout.

Prof Perry also added his voice to those criticising plans to test for COVID-19 in Queensland pharmacies.

“In the meantime, we must continue social distancing, which is why it is regrettable that the Queensland Government is putting people at risk of infection by trialing COVID-testing in several pharmacies,” he said.

AMA Queensland and other stakeholder groups have previously warned against COVID testing in retail outlets because of the risk of cross-infection among shoppers.

“We already have specific testing locations which are fully equipped with trained staff and adequate PPE,” Prof Perry said.

“Rather than testing in busy pharmacies, which people will want to avoid entering, we should boost existing testing services to ensure that frontline health workers and the wider community remain safe.”

Pharmacy groups have also been critical of the trial.

Professional Pharmacists Australia Queensland Director Adam Kerslake said earlier that it “could turn pharmacies into COVID petri dishes and result in the pandemic sweeping across the community;” and Dr Freeman said that, “We do not want people who potentially have COVID-19 wandering into a pharmacy to get tested.

“It is clear, pharmacists on the ground are saying NO to this idea.”

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  1. Steven Julius

    Khorsid thinks GPs aren’t trying to sell anything else. How about $20 for a postage stamp to send a script out they’ve already faxed to a pharmacy?

  2. Philip Smith

    It shows a general lack of knowledge about pharmacist training.
    But suspect it may go a little deeper than that.

    • Kevin Hayward

      I feel fortunate to be working with several enlightened general medical practices, where the GPs understand my competencies and skill set, we work in an integrated multidisciplinary environment. I have never experienced this sort of role misinterpretation.

  3. Nicholas Logan

    What about the training at a non-shopping centre pharmacy??? Hang on. What about the training at a shopping centre surgery??? I’ll never forget when an AMA president questioned cold chain at a PSA conference about ten years after QCPP launched. Get a life AMA.

  4. Natalie Jenkins

    I don’t think I’ve read any positive statements lately made by the AMA about pharmacist services- vaccinations or otherwise. The entire healthcare team (doctors, nurses and all allied health) unquestionably have a role to play when there is a major public health problem such as COVID 19. Assuming the medical profession can manage everything is ridiculous. I am sure many public health professionals would agree. This organisation needs to seriously look at its messaging with respect to the role of other health care professionals – it is counterproductive and disrespectful

  5. Anthony Tassone

    As a co proprietor and practising pharmacist within a ‘shopping centre pharmacy’ I was immensely proud of my team’s efforts throughout the COVID pandemic and flu season providing continuity of access and delivery of services including vaccinations.

    This was while a number of nearby medical centres transitioned to telehealth and were not providing vaccinations – and their patients were very thankful their local pharmacy could assist.

    This is while GP’s were referring their patients to our pharmacy for blood pressure monitoring as they weren’t providing face to face consults.

    We can all see through the screeching self interest from the AMA.

    Pharmacists and pharmacies are not defined by our location.

    We are defined by our care, skill and competence which the public ultimately benefits from and judges us on.

    This is an old worn out argument from the AMA, we have all read the book and seen the movie and there’s no need for a sequel.

    There will be a need for all immuniser ‘hands on deck’ for a successful roll out of the COVID-19 vaccine program along with ensuring there is no disruption or fall in parallel programs such as influenza.

    Anthony Tassone
    President, Pharmacy Guild of Australia (Victoria Branch)


    Pharmacists CAN provide the vaccine but SHOULD they? Not unless employee pharmacists get paid extra remuneration *directly* for the massive extra workload, stress and responsibility! GP’s will do it because they will get paid extra and they can delegate this to their nurses.
    This is all about the $$$ at this stage – incidentally one of the major reasons why a COVID vaccination was able to be developed so rapidly in the first instance!
    Pharmacists need to think carefully. Resources should be diverted to sorting out the awful e-prescribing system first and foremost methinks. In its current form it takes significantly longer to process a single Rx than the old system. Also the new FRED NXT dispensing software is a huge downgrade from the old. Bit like comparing Windows 7 to 8! It’s time to get back to the CORE of the pharmacy profession.
    Good Luck!

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