‘There is no weaker vaccine.’

The Pharmacy Guild of Australia WA Branch has called on Channel Seven Perth to correct “misleading information” it aired on Tuesday, regarding community pharmacies and the National Immunisation Program

Channel Seven Perth reported that pharmacies were delivering “weaker” flu vaccines to elderly patients.

“However this was apparently based on one South Australian GP’s sample of five people,” the Guild says.

Adelaide GP and Medical Observer columnist Dr Pam Rachootin had written that her patients were being vaccinated against flu “at the chemist,” and that pharmacies were failing to ask whether patients were over the age of 65.

The story was then picked up by mainstream media. The AJP reported on it here.

But the Guild’s WA branch points out that unlike in Western Australia, South Australia does not have approved NIP access for community pharmacy.

Channel Seven Perth failed to clarify this to its viewers, it says.

The Western Australian Government approved community pharmacy’s administration of NIP-funded seasonal influenza vaccines for persons aged 65 years and over in early 2021, following the completion of a successful three-year trial.

Western Australia is one of three Australian jurisdictions that have approved community pharmacy access to the over-65 influenza vaccine under the NIP. Inconsistencies between the approved and non-approved states and territories were not clearly defined by Channel Seven Perth, the Guild says.

Pharmacy Guild of Australia WA Branch President Andrew Ngeow said, “The Western Australian Government has shown exceptional leadership in approving community pharmacies’ involvement in the NIP”.

“Accordingly, we were dismayed that inaccuracies in the Channel Seven Perth report may have caused confusion to our vulnerable elderly population, resulting in their delaying receiving an influenza vaccine through the NIP.”

The Pharmacy Guild of Australia WA Branch says it strongly refutes Channel Seven Perth’s report, and calls for its retraction and for them to show responsibility and clarify community pharmacy’s participation in the Western Australian NIP.

This includes that qualified pharmacist immunisers in Western Australia are required to update their knowledge annually via a WA Department of Health online Influenza Update Module, it says.

This provides not only general influenza information but importantly includes any changes in influenza immunisation. Their advice is that ‘all available Quadrivalent Influenza Vaccines (QIVs) can be used for individuals aged 65 and older through the NIP.  However, the specifically formulated adjuvanted QIV, Fluad® Quad is preferentially recommended over standard QIVs.

What happens in South Australia is irrelevant and should not have been represented as the Western Australian situation, the Guild says.

“Quite simply, there is no weaker vaccine, only approved vaccines. At the time of a global pandemic, the importance of increasing access to vaccines never been greater and we demand Channel Seven Perth address their error,” Mr Ngeow said.


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