Prime Minister gives go-ahead for nearly 4,000 community pharmacies across the country to join the COVID-19 vaccination rollout within weeks
All eligible community pharmacies across Australia will finally be able to join the COVID-19 vaccination rollout after Prime Minister Scott Morrison gave them the green light on Thursday.
Nearly 4,000 community pharmacies, which had already successfully applied the join the program through an Expression of Interest process earlier this year, are expected to commence administering the AstraZeneca vaccine from mid-August.
This includes 2,668 pharmacies in metropolitan areas and 1,262 pharmacies in regional, rural and remote areas.
Pharmacies that have not yet expressed interest will also be offered the opportunity to participate, according to Health Minister Greg Hunt.
“That’s all about increasing the many points of presence. This increase in the pharmacy rollout for now is about AstraZeneca, and it’s particularly designed to ensure that we can address those more vulnerable populations over 60,” said Mr Morrison.
“The Delta variant is very aggressive. It is important wherever you are in the country to please go and see that pharmacist when they’re available, or go and see your GP, and make sure that you’re getting the AstraZeneca vaccines.”
Mr Morrison added that pharmacies will still be able to participate in administering mRNA vaccines from September as planned.
So far only 118 community pharmacies are currently vaccinating around the country, particularly located in rural and regional areas.
Mr Morrison said it was expected the pharmacies would be ready to begin administering the vaccinations in roughly two weeks, with some in Sydney hotspots onboarded from next week.
The Pharmacy Guild of Australia welcomed the decision by the Commonwealth.
“These pharmacies have undergone all the training and meet all the necessary criteria to provide this service for patients,” said National President of the Pharmacy Guild, Trent Twomey.
“To date a handful of pharmacies in regional, rural and remote areas have been able to provide COVID-19 vaccinations to patients.
“But today’s announcement means patients across all of Australia will soon be able to access their COVID-19 vaccinations through their community pharmacy, which is the most accessible health destination and often provides extended operating hours and access at weekends.
“These pharmacies are fully indemnified by the Government and informed consent protocols will be followed for patients,” said Adj Prof Twomey.
“Modelling by the Guild shows that bringing these pharmacies on board will speed up the rollout by several months, and this is great news for communities across Australia,” he said.
PSA National President Chris Freeman said pharmacists around the country will welcome the news.
“Today is the day that we have been waiting for and PSA is pleased that pharmacists will finally be able to fully contribute to the vaccine rollout,” he said.
“Pharmacists will be able to target those at-risk Australians, particularly the elderly, who remain unvaccinated – negating the need to queue at mass vaccination hubs for extended periods of time.”
A/Prof Freeman also called on the all states and territories to update their regulations to ensure as many eligible Australians can access the vaccine as soon as possible.