Victoria has announced vaccination reforms which will see pharmacists able to administer vaccines to 16-year-olds
The announcement comes as new PSA research reveals that almost two-thirds of Australians believe pharmacists should be able to administer common vaccinations that are currently only administered by doctors.
The nationwide poll, conducted by YouGov Galaxy, found 64% of Australians support these expanded pharmacist vaccinations, with 62% citing convenience as a benefit.
PSA says that legislative changes at the state and territory levels would allow for travel vaccines, and vaccines against diseases including whooping cough and meningococcal disease, to be administered by a pharmacist in the same way flu vaccines are available now across the country.
According to a PSA analysis, around a quarter of a million Australians have received flu vaccination directly from a pharmacy since April 2018 alone.
“That’s almost 100 flu vaccinations occurring every hour in pharmacies across the country,” says national president Dr Shane Jackson.
“Clearly, this represents a better protected and subsequently healthier Australia and is evidence enough that enhanced access to vaccination results in strong uptake.”
The poll of 1,023 Australians also revealed that 60% of Australians believe the cost of a pharmacist administering a vaccine should be covered by Medicare, with a further 24% of the view that private health insurance should cover some of the cost.
In Victoria over the weekend, Minister for Health Jill Hennessy announced the Measles-Mumps-Rubella vaccination would soon be available from trained pharmacists.
This follows the 2016 introduction of pharmacist influenza and whooping cough vaccines.
According to the Andrews Government vaccinations at pharmacies have been so successful that it plans to lower the eligible age from 18 to 16.
The Government says that it is also set to introduce a measles vaccination blitz, which means that eligible adult Victorians who are most in need of vaccination against the disease will be able to access it free of charge from a pharmacy or other immunisation provider.
As with other pharmacist vaccinations, while the vaccine itself will be free, pharmacies may apply a small service fee.
Most Victorians born prior to 1966 are considered immune to measles, but those born later require two doses of the Measles-Mumps-Rubella vaccination to be adequately protected.
Most younger Victorians received their vaccinations at school or as part of their childhood immunisation schedule, but many adult Victorians – especially those born between the late 1960s and 1980s – remain unvaccinated or only partially immune, the Government warns.
Measles can also spread rapidly if unvaccinated travellers import the disease from overseas trips to places such as Bali, where measles is common.
More than 42,000 Victorians have accessed the flu and whooping cough shots at their local pharmacy since the Labor Government introduced the program, at more than 350 pharmacies across the state.
“We’re making the measles vaccination available at pharmacies, making it free for those who need it most, and ensuring younger Victorians can get the vaccinations they need – without needing an appointment with a GP,” said Minister for Health Jill Hennessy.
“Nearly 90% of us live just a short walk or drive from a pharmacy, so this will make getting vaccinated against the measles just as easy as the flu or whooping cough.”
Setting the benchmark
The Victorian announcement follows the decision in late July by Tasmanian Minister for Health Michael Ferguson that meningococcal vaccines covering the A, C, W and Y strains will be provided free for people aged between six weeks and 20 years.
Trained pharmacists will be able to vaccinate children aged 10 and over. A number of Tasmanian pharmacists have attended the training and are now waiting for Government vaccine stock to arrive.
PSA’s Dr Jackson said that “this model should now set the vaccination benchmark for other states and territories to follow”.
“Our new research confirms that Australians clearly understand that pharmacists have the skill and training to do more than they currently do.
“Common sense should see legislative changes that allow pharmacists to administer a number of commonly used vaccines.”
He welcomed the Victorian decision, saying he was delighted that more people would have ready access to the vaccines from pharmacists.
“This is a practical and common-sense response by the government, particularly since pharmacists have already been vaccinating people 18 years and over for flu and whooping cough in Victoria since 2016,” he said.
“A younger and more vulnerable segment of the population can now get vaccinated quickly and easily, without having to make an appointment with a GP.
“Faster and easier access to vaccinations raises herd immunity and thus protects the entire community.”
Pharmacy Guild Victorian branch president Anthony Tassone, who attended the Victorian announcement, also welcomed the decision.
“Making best use of pharmacists and community pharmacy makes sense and will increase vaccination rates in the community and reduce preventable infectious disease,” he said.