Is the turf war ending?


Does a recent article in an AMA publication signify a thaw in doctors’ opposition to pharmacist vaccination?

Leading medical groups have been resolute in their opposition to vaccinations by pharmacists, but a recent article in an AMA publication may represent the beginning of a softening in these views.

Writing in the May edition of Australian Medicine, public health academic Stephen Leeder received some surprisingly positive responses from allied health colleagues.  

Professor Leeder, Emeritus Professor of Public Health at the University of Sydney says given the controversy swirling around the topic of vaccination by pharmacists he sounded out the views of several colleagues, including pharmacists.

A response from an infectious disease physician was very positive: “(I see) no fundamental reason why not … under certain conditions: they keep recipients on site for 15 mins to make sure they do not suffer anaphylaxis; they [are] trained to resuscitate; they record the vaccination and report to the Immunisation Register and to the recipient’s GP and provide the recipient with an appropriate record. It might suit … families lacking access to bulk-billing GPs or who can’t organise appointments.”

Another physician mentioned the possibility for a disruption of GP-patient relationships, but was still positive, saying: “I’ve never been convinced (by the AMA), especially (regarding) flu vaccine – where adults >65 and parents of school-age children (need) GP appointments at convenient times. Pharmacists are well-equipped for following procedures, including cold-chain logging and record-keeping.”

The views contrast with some expert opinions earlier this year advising patients to avoid “cheap” pharmacy vaccinations. 

Professor Leeder also sought the views of Professor Iqbal Ramzan, Dean of Pharmacy at the University of Sydney, who said: “Falling vaccination rates … pose a public health threat …all health professionals [must) maximise vaccine coverage.

“Most jurisdictions allow pharmacists (with) approved training to provide influenza vaccination. While there may be some disquiet within the medical fraternity, pharmacists have the requisite theoretical knowledge and, with training, the skills required to administer vaccines. Pharmacies offer easy access … this also provides GPs with valuable time to discuss complex issues with their patients.”

A recent academic paper evaluating the first pharmacist-administered vaccinations in Western Australia found “no major adverse events; less than 1 per cent of consumers experienced minor events, which were appropriately managed,” he said.

The study, by pharmacy academic Laetitia Hattingh and colleagues found, “a high percentage was delivered in rural and regional areas [where] pharmacist vaccination facilitated access. Immuniser pharmacists reported feeling confident … and [felt] that services should be expanded to other vaccinations.”

The study reported on 15,621 influenza vaccinations administered by pharmacists at 76 community pharmacies in 2015.

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