Demand is ‘far exceeding’ previous years as patients get vaccinated earlier amidst coronavirus pandemic
There has been a year-on-year increase of more than 300% for flu vaccinations administered in pharmacies, according to data from medication technology platform MedAdvisor.
While flu shot demand typically peaks in May, the peak appears to have approached earlier this year with more people opting for the jab in April.
“The MedAdvisor data shows demand is far exceeding previous years,” said CEO Robert Read.
“People are also getting the shot much earlier than the regular peak demand month which is usually May,” he said.
The data is drawn from the pharmacies that use MedAdvisor, which comprise about 60% of the pharmacy landscape.
Through its platform PlusOne, pharmacists can record and submit immunisation encounters to the Australian Immunisation Register, as well as manage patient bookings.
Community pharmacist and proprietor Curtin Ruhnau tells AJP that the demand for flu vaccines has been “amazing”, with bookings for his western Sydney pharmacy coming in from all over the city.
So far this year, his pharmacy has administered double the amount of flu vaccinations he initially ordered.
This is about eight times the amount of flu stock he initially ordered last year.
“Many are getting it because they can’t go see their mum in the nursing home without the flu vaccination,” he said, referring to Health Minister Greg Hunt’s announcement that from 1 May 2020, all aged care workers and visitors must be vaccinated against seasonal influenza before entering an aged care facility.
Despite now being out of stock, Mr Ruhnau’s pharmacists continue to receive at least five requests a day from patients for flu vaccinations.
However he noted that plenty of pharmacies have struggled to get stock in this year.
“I know there are some that are pretty sore that they didn’t receive it till late,” he said.
The uptick in demand comes as NSW and Victoria expand pharmacists’ vaccination role to align with vaccination rules in the ACT, South Australia and Tasmania.
Pharmacists can now offer vaccination services across a range of settings including aged care facilities, community health centres, hospitals and Aboriginal Medical Services, as well as community pharmacies.
Meanwhile pharmacy groups continue to lobby for full pharmacy access to the National Immunisation Program (NIP).
While pharmacists in Victoria, WA, and the ACT have access to NIP stock for vulnerable patients including the elderly, those in remaining jurisdictions don’t.
A Guild spokesperson said: “We believe this NIP access should be national and uniform across all jurisdictions so that consumers can obtain these vaccinations safely and conveniently at their local pharmacy, administered by a trained pharmacist vaccinator.”