‘Pharmacists are exasperated’

Pharmacist takes Prime Minister to task about vaccine rollout issues during Parliamentary discussion

Pharmacist and MP Emma McBride has launched a lengthy tirade against the federal government over the botched COVID vaccination rollout.

Ms McBride, the Opposition MP for Dobell on the NSW Central Coast, outlined the frustrations of many pharmacists at the profession’s initial withholding from the rollout, as well as describing the impact of limited vaccine availability in her community.   

“I have lost count of the number of times I have spoken in this House about the failures of the Morrison
government during this pandemic and the devastating impact it’s had on the community I represent on the Central Coast of New South Wales,” Ms McBride said.

“As a pharmacist and local MP, I am deeply concerned. The Prime Minister likes to try to shift blame whenever he can, but there’s no getting around the fact that the biggest failings of this pandemic response are squarely his responsibility. The government is responsible for aged care, the vaccine rollout and hotel quarantine. And what have we seen? Tragically, 685 lives lost in aged care, 28 leaks from hotel quarantine and Australia rated dead last in the OECD for fully vaccinated adults”.

Speaking to the House of Representatives via a video link, Ms McBride said she had  “heard from so many pharmacists who are just exasperated.” 

“Like me, they’re trained immunisers, they’re ready and they’ve been prepared. They put in expressions of interest back in February and welcomed the health minister’s announcement earlier in the year that they’d be part of the rollout. But up until now very few of them have been part of the vaccine rollout. In my community, they’ve only been able to start this week”.

“What we know is that in countries across the world where pharmacists have been involved in the vaccine rollout they have seen higher rates of vaccination. We know that in some countries we’ve seen rates of 60 or 70 per cent where they’ve relied on a network of pharmacists and GPs who are known in their local community and who are trusted,” she said.

“I am so disappointed, as are pharmacists across Australia, that their skills and expertise weren’t drawn on earlier. They’ve just been sidelined, waiting to contribute, to do their bit to help with the vaccine rollout”.

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Earlier, Ms McBride asked Prime Minister Scott Morrison about the diversion of vaccines meant for the Central Coast but reallocated by the NSW government to its plan for vaccinating Year 12 students in western Sydney.

“Isn’t it true that, if the government had secured an adequate supply of vaccines at the start of the pandemic, absurd situations like this wouldn’t be happening?” she asked.

The Prime Minister directed the blame to the NSW government, saying “the federal government provided an extra 200,000 Pfizer doses and 150,000 extra AstraZeneca doses. Indeed, the federal government did not support the initiative to redirect doses away from the Central Coast to Greater Sydney”.

“I would encourage those on the Central Coast to go to their GP, to go to their pharmacist who is doing that, because the doses are continuing to be supplied by the Commonwealth government to those who are distributing”.

“The pharmacists are coming online. We had 450 last month, and this month there will be thousands more that will be coming onstream in the middle of August”.

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