Uncertainty over immunisation reporting

More work is needed to improve immunisation reporting practices by pharmacists, first-ever report concludes  

While four out of five vaccines administered by pharmacists are recorded in the Australian Immunisation Register (AIR), experts believe this may be an overestimate and say more needs to be done to improve reporting systems. 

The first-ever survey of pharmacist vaccination reporting to the Australian Immunisation Register (AIR) was conducted by the National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance (NCIRS) in June and July 2020, with the findings released this week.

The report found 82% of vaccines administered by pharmacists were recorded in the AIR, although the authors said this was likely to overestimate true reporting rates.

A total of 121 pharmacies reported data  – with 72,045 of 87,665 vaccinations administered being reported to AIR.

Nearly all of the pharmacists involved in this study recorded information on vaccinations given in their pharmacies electronically (93%) and the majority used automated reporting software.

Several pharmacies reported using more than one method of recording vaccinations, with 68% using paper-based records and 40% patient-held records.

All survey respondents indicated that they were aware of AIR before the survey, with 62% using it regularly.

The majority (71%) of respondents reported data on vaccination encounters to AIR via automated uploads from pharmacy software, while 41% manually entered data on the AIR site; 13.5% said they used both methods.

“Completeness of reporting was higher among those who used automated reporting methods; recorded the patient’s Medicare card number; and/or administered National Immunisation Program (NIP) vaccines,” the authors said.

They said the estimate of 82% completeness was “higher than expected”.

“This study may have overestimated the true completeness of reporting because of potential selection and measurement bias, and so the findings should be interpreted with caution.

The pharmacies for which data were supplied may not be representative of all community pharmacies in Australia, as respondents who provided data on the number of vaccines administered may have had a higher use of electronic methods of recording data on vaccination encounters and automated reporting to AIR via software compared with non-respondents. Respondents in our study may also be more aware of reporting requirements,” the authors said. 

Respondents listed difficulties accessing and using the AIR site as a substantial barrier to reporting by pharmacists. Other barriers included time and resource constraints for reporting data, especially when records were manually reported to AIR. 

The authors recommended improving reporting systems, particularly access to the AIR site, enhancing existing software to enable electronic reporting through integration with AIR and increasing uptake of automated software to record and report data to AIR. 

“Ongoing support and education for pharmacists is also necessary to increase their awareness about their reporting responsibilities,” they said.

Vaccines funded on the National Immunisation Program (NIP) were available in 40% of pharmacies, noting that in NSW and QLD, NIP-funded vaccinations are not available to pharmacists.

Reporting of vaccinations to AIR by all providers became mandatory for all COVID-19 and influenza vaccines from 1 March 2021, and for all other vaccines funded on the National Immunisation Program from 1 July 2021.

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  1. Philip Smith

    What is the current punishment/fine for not reporting vaccinations to AIR?
    Is this paid by pharmacist or owners?

    • Sheshtyn Paola

      Hi Philip,
      There is a fine of $6,660 should vaccination providers not comply with the legislated requirements.
      The person or body responsible for reporting and/or paying the fine would depend on who is considered the “recognised vaccination provider” under the law. See: https://ajp.com.au/news/mandatory-flu-covid-vax-reporting-incoming/
      Please let me know if you need more info and I’ll follow it up.
      Kind regards,
      Sheshtyn Paola (Journalist, AJP)

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