Vaccination: GP, pharmacy or café?

vaccination cafe

The North West Melbourne Primary Health Network has announced that its Vaccination Café will be back this year, offering free coffee, flu vaccines and whooping cough boosters; meanwhile, the RACGP says the GP is the “cornerstone” of the immunisation system.

Victoria is the only state which does not yet have a pharmacist-administered vaccination program, though the Guild and PSA are working towards its introduction.

Convenience is a major factor in the popularity of Melbourne’s Vaccination Café, its promoters say.

The Café will be open on 29 April at Melbourne Town Hall, marking the International Day of Immunology with a push to get as many people as possible vaccinated against the highly contagious and potentially deadly infections.

All comers are welcome to get a free flu shot and coffee (donated by St Ali Roasters); free whooping cough boosters will also be provided to all pregnant women at more than 28 weeks’ gestation, eligible partners and new parents/guardians.

North Western Melbourne Primary Health Network CEO Adj/Associate Professor Christopher Carter says it is great to be supporting the Vaccination Café for a third time.

“Some people think they don’t have time to get a flu shot, but no-one has time for the flu – it can leave a healthy person bed-ridden for weeks and is even more dangerous for children, the elderly and people with other conditions,” says A/Prof Carter.

“It’s also great to see whooping cough shots available for pregnant women this year, helping them pass on the best protection to their unborn child.”

Immunisation Coalition CEO Kim Sampson believes the Vaccination Café will help to create awareness of the importance of immunisation.

“While most people are aware of influenza, it is a poorly understood disease,” Sampson says. “It’s also easily spread, and is potentially a very serious illness. More than 100,000 Australians were diagnosed with flu last year.”

The Pharmacy Guild’s Anthony Tassone says the Guild is very supportive of promoting vaccination to the community for improved public health.

“While vaccination cafes may prove to be of great convenience, it is important that appropriate protocols and premises requirements are adhered to for safe administration and record keeping,” he says.

“Depending on the State or Territory, there are requirements that must be met by the pharmacy premises to meet legislative requirements.

“Community pharmacies are a very accessible primary health destination with 87% of the Australian community living with 2.5km of a community pharmacy.

“This is why the Guild feels there is a significant opportunity to fully utilise community pharmacy as a primary health destination.”


GPs highlight vaccination

Meanwhile, the RACGP‘s president, Dr Frank R Jones, said today that World Immunisation Week (April 24-30) is a timely reminder of the need to remain ever vigilant about vaccination.

“Your GP is the cornerstone of an effective and timely immunisation program and the most important determinant of complete vaccination is a recommendation by a GP or health practitioner,” Dr Jones says.

According to the RACGP, at least 70% of all childhood immunisations are delivered by GPs and adult immunisation is delivered almost exclusively in general practice.

Tassone says that more and more adults are accessing pharmacy for a vaccination service due to its convenience.

“Community pharmacy does not claim to be the mainstay of the majority of adult influenza vaccinations, but is becoming an important component of the public health approach of increasing herd immunity through its convenience and relevance to those adults who may not otherwise get vaccinated,” he says.

The report into Phase 1 of QPIP showed that almost 15% of people vaccinated in the pilot had never received an influenza vaccination before.

As well as encouraging adults to be vaccinated against influenza and tetanus, Dr Jones encouraged parents in particular to have their children immunised against infectious diseases such as measles.

“People have forgotten what it was like to have babies dying from illnesses because we don’t see it now,” he says.

“Why? Because immunisation has been the best public health measure ever introduced.”

The RACGP highlighted the case of a Victorian woman who developed a fatal brain disease from a measles infection, as reported in the MJA this week.

The woman developed subacute sclerosing panencephalitis. The case came days after NSW health issued a warning after four people were diagnosed with contagious measles in Sydney

In 2014-2015, Australia had a fully immunised rate of 90.9% of children aged one, two and five years of age with an aspirational target of 95% which means 9.1% of children were not fully immunised.

Later this year Australia will offer Zostavax, a vaccine effective for zoster or shingles, to all adults over 70 years of age. This is in addition to the annual influenza vaccine and pneumococcal pneumonia vaccine.


Image: a scene from the inaugural Café.

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