Winter is coming, and Tasmania’s plan to expand pharmacist-administered vaccination has it at odds with doctors
Michael Ferguson, Tasmania’s Minister for Health, has announced the state’s Winter Demand Management Plan, which is aimed at ensuring it is as prepared as possible to support patients and health staff over winter.
As part of the plan, community pharmacists will be able to offer low-cost flu vaccinations for children aged 10 and over.
“About 300,000 Tasmanians can now receive a low-cost flu vaccination in many pharmacies across the state, with children aged 10 and over able to receive their vaccination from a pharmacist, in an Australian first,” Mr Ferguson said.
“Previously, pharmacists could only deliver flu shots to Tasmanians aged 18 and over.
“Doctors advise the best protection against the flu is a vaccination, which is why we have worked hard to make it so much more accessible for families.”
President of the Tasmanian Branch of the Pharmacy Guild John Dowling welcomed the announcement.
“This is a fantastic announcement by the Minister, which will help protect Tasmanians by making access easier,” Mr Dowling said.
“Pharmacists have been providing influenza vaccines in community pharmacies for a number of years with more people requesting their flu vaccination at their local pharmacy.
“This is an excellent step to ensuring that more people can protect themselves from the flu, by having their vaccination at their local pharmacy in Tasmania.
“This provides a convenient and safe service to consumers, where now Mum or Dad can take their younger children to the pharmacy for their vaccination.
“Additionally, older independent teens are now able to present at the pharmacy to receive their vaccination, at a time when convenient, after school as an example.
“It’s great to see Tasmania taking the lead on what is looking like a severe season for influenza, and being the first State where pharmacists can vaccinate from 10 years plus.”
Doctors, however, are less than impressed. AMA Tasmania Vice President Dr John Davis welcomed the release of the Winter Demand Management Plan, but said that the AMA was disappointed it was not consulted on the strategy.
“While the plan, overall, is welcome and much needed, as a key stakeholder, AMA Tasmania should have been consulted,” he said.
“For instance, while AMA is supportive of the measures to encourage all Tasmanians to be immunised and for vulnerable Tasmanians to be immunised free of charge, we believe GPs are the best and safest option for people to receive their vaccination.
“We do not support pharmacists administering the vaccine as we believe doctors are best placed to care for a patient should the patient suffer an adverse reaction.”
RACGP national president Dr Harry Nespolon called the decision to allow pharmacist vaccination of children aged 10 and up “baffling” and said it could put young patients at risk.
“Although this has been a particularly bad flu season, we are unaware of any access issues for this particular patient group in Tasmania, and there is no reason for these patients to visit a pharmacy for this healthcare service,” Dr Nespolon said.
“All patients, no matter their age, should receive their flu vaccination from their usual GP.
“Administering a flu vaccination is an invaluable opportunity for a patient to have their overall health assessed. Only GPs can provide this comprehensive and holistic care.”
Dr Nespolon said offering ad hoc health services without any connection to a patient’s general practice would fragment their healthcare.
“It’s quite simple, pharmacists don’t have the medical training required to safely deliver vaccinations and respond to associated risks, such as anaphylaxes,” Dr Nespolon said.
“This appears to be another attempt by the pharmacy sector to put financial gains over quality patient care and safety.
“The Tasmanian Government should be further supporting patients to see their GP, rather than fragmenting their healthcare.
“I call on the Tasmanian Government to reconsider its decision, before any patient suffers the potential negative effects of this decision.”
The Guild’s John Dowling had pointed out that pharmacists are skilled health care professionals and ensure that vaccination services are undertaken where they meet all required clinical and legislative protocols, including recording of vaccinations to the Australian Immunisation Record.
As well as expanding pharmacist vaccination, the Plan includes:
- Opening 12 additional beds at the Mersey Community Hospital to support the North and North-West;
- Community Rapid Response Service in the South and North-West to reduce hospital presentations and admissions;
- Better engagement with aged care homes to achieve safe and appropriate care and prevent unnecessary hospital admissions; and
- More private hospital beds through an improved access arrangement for the Royal Hobart Hospital.
Full details are available here.