Pharmacist-provided vaccinations produce a small but definite benefit in uptake, say researchers who call for MBS remuneration to be considered
Allowing pharmacists to administer influenza vaccinations leads to positive, though fairly small, benefits say Australian researchers who say MBS remuneration should come under consideration for pharmacy.
Their systematic review of international literature “suggests that pharmacist-provided vaccinations increase uptake, and substitution of doctors by pharmacists may result in cost savings”.
The authors, who include pharmacy academics Lisa Nissen and Amanda Wheeler and health economists, reviewed 11 studies from the US, UK and Canada, to assess the “magnitude of change in overall vaccination rates following the introduction of pharmacist-provided vaccination.”
All papers included in the review reported either an overall increase in influenza vaccination rates, and/or a decrease in declining rates of immunisation, associated with allowing pharmacist-provided vaccination, the review concluded.
The largest difference reported in any of the studies was a net increase of 10% in vaccination rates.
While some studies showed no discernible effect from pharmacist vaccination, the authors said “these studies may be associated with a reduction in overall declining rates of vaccination”.
Some of the studies included also provided evidence that the proportion of the population receiving
pharmacist-provided influenza vaccination had increased over time, with pharmacists substituting for other vaccination providers, primarily doctors.
“The results from the present systematic review suggest that the introduction of pharmacist-provided vaccination does appear to have a modest positive effect on overall influenza vaccination
rates (or at least a reduction in decline) and that this is maximised when pharmacists have authority to work independently of doctors,” the authors concluded.
“In terms of gauging the ‘success’ of the policy change allowing pharmacists to vaccinate… if the aim is to increase overall vaccination rates, although pharmacists appear to make a modest contribution, the
larger effect appears to be one of substitution.
Given that pharmacists have proven to deliver vaccinations in Australia as safely as doctors and nurses, as well as the extensive experience of pharmacists overseas…. there is a potential benefit to reducing
the costs to insurers and consumers (depending on the local arrangements for remuneration or subsidy of vaccination services) and improving convenience,” they said.
Speaking to AJP, lead author Jean Spinks of the Centre for Applied health Economics, Griffith University, said: “What is yet to be tested in Australia is if pharmacists were funded to provide National Immunisation Program subsided influenza vaccinations through an MBS item number or similar.
There are reasonable arguments that health care professionals should be subsidised at the same rate for an equivalent (substitutable) service.”
The authors said they were not able to include any analysis of the Australian experience, primarily due to data limitations.
The study was published in the Australian Health Review.