The current flu crisis only serves to highlight the need for national consistency in accessing vaccines through community pharmacies under the NIP, says a Guild leader
The mainstream media continues to report that pharmacies are running low on stocks of the 2019 influenza vaccine, with the Ballarat Courier reporting an “extraordinary” uptake.
It interviewed UFS Pharmacy clinical advisor Peter Fell, who said the UFS chain ran out of the jab in the town this week and hopes to secure another 1000 doses, hopefully available next week.
Mr Fell said the UFS chain had “lasted a bit longer than most others,” with the larger pharmacies performing up to 60 vaccinations a week over the past month to six weeks.
Mario Tascone, director of Chemist Warehouse, told 3AW’s Ross and John that stocks were “very low” and that the discount giant was “spread pretty thin” around Australia in terms of the vaccine’s availability.
He said demand had been very high this year.
These reports follow articles in Fairfax Media earlier this week which reported that while vaccines on the NIP were still for the most part available from GP surgeries for eligible people, pharmacy stocks were running low around Sydney.
Giving pharmacies in more jurisdictions access to these NIP vaccines could help address the shortage, says Pharmacy Guild of Australia Tasmanian Branch president John Dowling.
Currently community pharmacies in Victoria are covered under the NIP, while trials of access to NIP vaccines through community pharmacies are underway in Western Australia and the ACT.
“The success of the program in Victoria and the trials to date indicate that community pharmacies offer a valuable service in providing NIP vaccines to eligible people.” Mr Dowling said.
Mr Dowling said that the present situation where some pharmacies were experiencing shortages of vaccine stocks had to be addressed, and having NIP vaccines available through pharmacies in all States and Territories was a solution.
“The NIP has access to vaccine stocks and in emergencies where stocks run very low priority is given to ensuring NIP supply is maintained.
“This is quite fitting as the NIP is aimed at ensuring vulnerable groups throughout Australia are protected against disease.
“But where private stocks are running low there becomes a question of equitable access to potentially life-saving vaccines.
“I call on the Tasmanian Government to move quickly to ensure NIP vaccines are available through pharmacies in Tasmania as a matter of urgency,” Mr Dowling said.