Amid a “massive” jump in the number of flu cases recorded in Western Australia, the state Government has moved on pharmacist vaccination
The move by the WA Government to allow trained pharmacists to administer influenza vaccination to patients aged 10 years and over has been warmly welcomed by the Pharmacy Guild of Australia’s WA Branch.
The ABC reports that WA Health Minister Roger Cook told reporters that a vaccination program will be extended to frontline health workers, and pharmacist vaccination would be expanded to children 10 and over.
“We will take the vaccination regime for pharmacies from 18-year-olds down to 10-year-olds, consistent with what is occurring in other states, to make sure we improve our vaccination rates,” he said.
The WA Branch President, Andrew Ngeow, said: “We congratulate the Health Minister and the government for taking the lead and moving quickly and decisively to improve the health of the WA community through this commonsense measure.
“We know hospital admissions due to influenza are up, and there have been tragic outcomes this flu season. It is impossible to ignore the evidence. This action being taken is very appropriate and effective immediately,” Mr Ngeow said.
“This is a critical step in the fight against this killer virus. It is also a response to demand from the public for better access to safe and effective vaccination against the flu.
“New stocks of the vaccine have arrived and are available now in community pharmacies.”
Mr Ngeow encouraged Western Australians to be vaccinated if they have not done so already, saying it is not too late in the season to do so.
The Guild said that the reduction in the age of patients able to be vaccinated by trained pharmacists builds on the contribution that pharmacists in Western Australia and in the other states have made to public health over the past four years, with an impeccable record of safety for patients.
Administering these vital vaccines to young patients is well within the scope of practice of trained pharmacist vaccinators, it said.
“Our pharmacists have great relationships with and respect for general practitioners, and will continue to work collaboratively with them in a combined effort to maximise herd immunity against influenza,” Mr Ngeow said.
“We know that doctors working at the coal face of our health system recognise and appreciate the contribution that can be made to immunity by trained pharmacists, regardless of concerns that may be expressed from time to time by the Australian Medical Association.
“This measure is about putting patients and public health first.”
The PSA also welcomed the move.
PSA WA Branch President Dr Fei Sim commended the government’s decision to allow pharmacists to protect more West Australians from the flu.
“Allowing trained pharmacists to administer vaccines will significantly increase the immunisation rates within the community,” said PSA WA Branch President Dr Fei Sim.
“This is particularly important as confirmed flu cases in WA are already dwarfing those of last year.
“The administration of vaccines by pharmacists complements the excellent work done by GPs, nurses, Indigenous Health Workers and other immunisers. It increases the immunisation rate and has a positive effect on people’s health in Western Australia.”
According to the Immunisation Coalition, there have been a total of 86,691 laboratory confirmed notifications of Influenza in Australia for 2019, at the start of 17 June.
To date 8,259 of these have been in Western Australia while NSW has seen 23,610 cases; South Australia has seen 18,067; and Victoria 18,013.
In WA, influenza A/H3N2 comprised the largest proportion of influenza detections at Pathwest this week (84%) followed by influenza B (15%), the Coalition said.
The ABC called the last week’s sharp rise in cases – including 3,000 new notifications and 14 deaths in the past week – “massive”.
It interviewed WA Health Department director of communicable diseases Paul Armstrong, who said that there were likely significant numbers of cases which were not reported and thus not reflected in the statistics.
“Most of the people who die from influenza don’t make it onto our systems,” he said.
“They’re people who’ve got underlying medical conditions that are worsened by having influenza.”