Should pharmacists vaccinate teens?

Doctor making insulin or flu vaccination shot by syringe to a young woman

The heads of two NSW pharmacy bodies have urged authorities to bring the state in line with other jurisdictions when it comes to vaccination

Peter Carroll, president of the NSW branch of the PSA, and David Heffernan, president of the Pharmacy Guild’s NSW branch, have called on NSW Health to make the change.

Expanding vaccination choice and opportunity in NSW as a public health initiative will further protect against vaccine preventable diseases across the state, they say.

Currently in NSW, pharmacists accredited to vaccinate are only permitted to administer influenza vaccine to people aged 18 and over.

In some of the other states, however, accredited pharmacists are approved to administer influenza vaccine plus a range of other vaccines including diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis (DTP), and measles, mumps and rubella (MMR).

“Whilst a national approach to vaccination supports fair and equitable access, NSW could easily make pharmacist administered vaccines nationally consistent by adding DTP and MMR to an accredited pharmacist’s scope of practice,” both Presidents said.

Professor Carroll said that the situation is particularly evident to pharmacists and patients in border areas such as Albury/Wodonga, Tweed Heads/Coolangatta, or the ACT/Queanbeyan.

“It just seems silly that an accredited pharmacist on the NSW side of the border can only administer influenza vaccine, but if a patient and the pharmacist walk across the road into Queensland, the pharmacist can then administer to the patient DTP or MMR as well,” said Professor Carroll. 

NSW Regulation only allows pharmacists to administer influenza vaccine to people aged 18 years and over. This means that if a family of two adults with teenage children under the age of 18 presents to the pharmacy to be immunised against influenza, the adults can be vaccinated but the teenage children cannot.

All feedback suggests that this situation results in the teenage children not being vaccinated at all, Professor Carroll and Mr Heffernan say.

They say that the PSA and PGA believe that pharmacists can play an important role in achieving higher vaccination rates within the NSW community.

This can be achieved by broadening the range of vaccines that pharmacists can administer, and by reducing the age of people who can receive their influenza vaccination from an accredited pharmacist to 12 years and over, they say.

“We believe these actions will increase herd immunity in NSW, and significantly increase the uptake of influenza vaccination,” said Professor Peter Carroll.

In addition, the National Immunisation Program (NIP) for influenza vaccination is not currently available through community pharmacy in NSW, but it is available for influenza vaccination in Victoria and Western Australia through community pharmacy.

Both Presidents believe there should be equitable access to the NIP, and call for its introduction for pharmacist administered influenza vaccine in NSW. 

They also said that “there should also be Government funding for vaccinations by pharmacist immunisers through the MBS in line with other health care professionals—why should pharmacists be treated any differently?”

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