Pharmacists encouraged to be at frontline


Pharmacists and other stakeholders have welcomed the TGA’s provisional approval of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine

The Pharmaceutical Society of Australia has welcomed the Therapeutic Goods Administration approval of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, which is set to be rolled out as part of Australia’s COVID-19 vaccination program.

The TGA and Federal Government made the announcement on Monday morning.

At the time, it said that the latest advice from Pfizer was that shipping and the first vaccinations are expected to be in late February.

PSA President, Associate Professor Chris Freeman, said the TGA announcement was an historic step towards Australia’s national COVID-19 vaccination program.

Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine will be administered at designated Pfizer Hubs across Australia.

A/Prof Freeman noted that while the Pfizer vaccine would not be administered in community pharmacies, pharmacist vaccinators may form a vital part of the vaccination workforce at these public health vaccination clinics.

“Pharmacists stand ready to administer COVID vaccines to the Australian community.

“Today’s approval of the Pfizer vaccine represents a significant step in Australia’s fight against COVID-19,” he said.

Community pharmacists are expected to administer other COVID-19 vaccines from Phase 2a when they become available.

 “The government has indicated it will be approaching community pharmacies this week seeking to participate in this program, and PSA encourages pharmacists to take the opportunity to be at the frontline of this.

“Pharmacists are appropriately skilled and equipped to deliver these services as the roll out of Australia’s COVID-19 Vaccination Strategy continues, including providing significant workforce and infrastructure capacity once other vaccines, such as the AstraZeneca vaccine, becomes available,” A/Prof Freeman said.

The Society of Hospital Pharmacists of Australiaalso commended the TGA’s decision, recognising it as a critical milestone for all Australians.

Australia’s hospital pharmacists and technicians are preparing for their central role in the safe and secure administration of COVID-19 vaccinations, with less than one month until the first scheduled doses, supported by SHPA’s new resources, education, and a member forum, the organisation said.

Additionally, an SHPA member’s conversation with international colleagues from the leading Cleveland Clinic in the United States has provided unparalleled insight into one of the world’s largest national vaccine roll-outs.

SHPA Chief Executive Kristin Michaels said the scope of practice of Australia’s hospital pharmacists and technicians is critical to the Federal Government’s vaccination roll-out.

“As stewards of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, hospital pharmacists and technicians are essential to the administration of novel medicines and medical products, not only to meet regulatory requirements related to storage, dispensing and supply but also to ensure their safe and ethical use.

“Safety and efficacy are absolutely central to Australia’s COVID-19 vaccination effort, the most important public health initiative in a generation. On behalf of SHPA members, SHPA is pleased to be supporting Pfizer and the Australian government as this mammoth task gets underway.”

AMA President Dr Omar Khorshid welcomed the decision.

“Australia has been fortunate that we are not in the emergency situations of other nations, and the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) has been able to go through its normal clearance processes for this vaccine,” Dr Khorshid said.

“Now the hard work of rolling out Australia’s biggest mass vaccination program begins.

“This will be an enormous task to get the vaccine delivered to as many Australians as possible, as quickly as possible.”

The National Rural Health Alliance had some concerns, urging Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt to ensure that vulnerable people in rural, regional and remote Australia are prioritised for vaccination.

“People in rural, regional and remote communities experience poorer health outcomes than those in major cities, which puts them in a higher risk category for serious health complications associated with COVID-19,” Alliance CEO Gabrielle O’Kane said.

“It is also much harder to access health services in country areas because we have the situation of persistent inadequate staffing and lack of availability to essential medical and health services in rural, regional and remote areas of Australia.

“As government launches this unprecedented vaccination rollout, rural Australia is at an unacceptable basis of disadvantage and we urge the government to acknowledge the disparity in rural health access and outcomes when classifying priority groups for vaccination.

“Achieving a swift and effective vaccine rollout to reach the seven million people living in rural, regional and remote communities will require the cooperation of every organisation and health professional in the vaccine supply chain.”

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