One step closer

Community pharmacies receive support from NSW Minister for Health on NIP access

NSW Minister for Health Brad Hazzard has indicated his support for community pharmacy access to vaccines under the National Immunisation Program (NIP), says the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia.

In response to a pre-budget submission by the PSA, Mr Hazzard shared his support for eligible people in NSW to be able to access the seasonal influenza and measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccines through community pharmacies under the NIP possibly from next year.

The commitment is contingent on working with the Commonwealth Government to secure the distribution and supply of the vaccines, the PSA stated.

Annual influenza vaccines may be facilitated under the NIP for people most vulnerable to influenza, including those aged over 65 years and people who are at greater risk of serious harm from certain diseases such as heart disease or severe asthma.

A NSW Health spokesperson told the AJP: “NSW Health supports the provision of National Immunisation Program (NIP) funded influenza vaccine to pharmacies for those aged 65 and over because it could improve access to this vaccine.

“With careful planning, and provision of additional doses of vaccine by the Australian Government, distribution of NIP funded influenza vaccine may be possible in 2022.”

PSA NSW President, Chelsea Felkai, welcomed the NSW Health Minister’s support for pharmacist immunisers accessing NIP influenza vaccines.

“Allowing pharmacist immunisers to provide NIP influenza vaccines will increase vaccination rates and herd immunity to influenza within the NSW community,” said Ms Felkai.

“Particularly in regional and remote NSW, people may have trouble accessing a GP. In addition, some people do not visit a GP regularly, or do not have a GP,” she said.

Access to the NIP would bring NSW in line with Victoria, the ACT and WA.

PSA National President Associate Professor Chris Freeman applauded the NSW Health Minister’s initiative.

“This commitment from the NSW Health Minister shows further confidence in the provision of safe, effective health care by pharmacists,” said A/Prof Freeman.

The Pharmacy Guild has recently re-stated its argument for community pharmacy access to the NIP.

NSW Branch President of the Pharmacy Guild David Heffernan told AJP that the Mr Hazzard has indicated his in-principle support for NSW community pharmacists to join the NIP when the time is right, however more advocacy is required across the Commonwealth.

“His support is dependent on a secure distribution and supply of the vaccines being available across the state,” Mr Heffernan said. “The Minister has always wanted a consistent national approach.

“The Guild in NSW has worked hard for a number of years with the Government and Mr Hazzard to bring pharmacies across the country into the NIP.

“Mr Hazzard is always committed to achieving the best outcomes for patients and his approach to opening access to the NIP for pharmacists in NSW reflects this,” he said.

“Vaccination audits will continue in NSW to ensure pharmacies are compliant with the vaccine standard – an important measure in securing the NIP in NSW.

“The Guild has worked closely with the NSW Ministry of Health and the Federal Government Department of Health to achieve this and, while there is no official announcement yet, we look forward to continuing our work to see pharmacists delivering under the NIP as soon as is practical.”

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