‘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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