Happy new year to all our readers! The long-awaited COVID-19 vaccine dominated headlines this week….
Kicking off 2021, we heard the Federal government announce the acceleration of the COVID-19 vaccination strategy, which has now been brought forward to February.
Health Minister Greg Hunt said frontline workers, health workers and aged residents would be included in the first vaccination round.
Minister Hunt also confirmed on Tuesday that community pharmacies will become involved during phase 2 of the rollout.
This phase includes adults aged 50-69, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 18- 54, other critical and high-risk workers (outside of phase 1), and any unvaccinated people from previous phases.
Despite the Federal support, GP groups have been vocal about their opposition to community pharmacies being involved, and are encouraging patients to get vaccinated at general practices instead.
“It is simply a waste of everybody’s time debating whether ‘if’ community pharmacy should be involved,” said Melbourne community pharmacist and president of the Pharmacy Guild of Australia’s Victorian branch, Anthony Tassone, in response to RACGP criticism.
“The implementation of the Australian COVID-19 vaccination program is a mammoth task that will need all immuniser hands on deck to deliver to all those Australians who not only wish to receive this vaccine, but to also ensure other vaccination programs including seasonal influenza do not suffer in uptake.”
Following further AMA comment that the vaccine should be kept out of “shopping centres or discount outlets”, a Pharmacy Guild spokesperson responded that “the proven record of pharmacist immunisers over the past five years also speaks for itself. The AMA needs to get with the program and put patients first.”
In world news, we heard the shocking story of a US hospital pharmacist alleged to have intentionally sabotaged more than 500 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine at his workplace.
Media reports stated that according to police, the pharmacist was “an admitted conspiracy theorist” who believed the vaccine could harm people and “change their DNA”.
Finally we covered the story of a struggling solo doctor in regional NSW whose litany of prescribing errors was picked up by local pharmacists—helping to avoid potentially disastrous outcomes for several patients.