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Mandatory vax orders raise “many queries” among community pharmacies and their staff: Guild

The Pharmacy Guild is working closely with its members to minimise any potential losses from the community pharmacy workforce, after Victoria announced mandatory COVID-19 vaccination for the state’s frontline health workers.

Under the new orders, to enter a healthcare facility such as a pharmacy or hospital, a worker must have received their first dose of the vaccine by 15 October and their second dose by 15 December.

Pharmacists or pharmacy staff that have a booking for their first dose scheduled between the 15 October and 29 October can still keep working, but need to wear a face mask and shield at all times.

Anthony Tassone, Victorian President of the Pharmacy Guild of Australia, told AJP that the directions announced by the Victorian government to also cover healthcare settings including pharmacies and their staff has “understandably raised many queries amongst our members and their staff”.

“The Guild understands why the government would want the absolute maximum coverage of vaccination against COVID-19 amongst healthcare workers and most patients would expect that healthcare workers delivering their care would be vaccinated,” said Mr Tassone.

“We are aware and mindful of the concerns raised by some of our members of the potential unintended consequences that these mandatory vaccination directions could have on their teams should they lose a staff member who refuses to be vaccinated and does not have a valid medical exemption, particularly in regional areas where pharmacy workforce shortages are more pronounced.”

However he emphasised that Guild members are “absolutely supportive” of the COVID-19 vaccination roll out and encouraging as much uptake as possible amongst the eligible Australian population.

“The Guild is committed to working closely with our members to ensure they’re fully aware of their obligations under these directions as employers, and to help increase uptake of the COVID-19 vaccination amongst their staff to minimise any potential losses from the community pharmacy workforce and impact on the delivery of care for patients,” said Mr Tassone.

The PSA also applauded the move towards mandatory vaccination.

“As the state navigates its way out of its sixth lockdown and grapples a safe reopening, this is a step in the right direction,” said PSA Victorian Branch President, John Jackson.

“It protects healthcare workers. It protects patients. It further reduces the risk of further transmission through high-risk primary care settings

“All healthcare workers and the community should be able to have confidence that everyone working to support health has heeded the health advice. That is, being vaccinated to protect themselves, their colleagues, and their patients.

PSA called on all state and territory governments to mandate COVID-19 vaccinations for all health workers – including those working in primary care such as community pharmacies.

“We also acknowledge the small cohort of health workers who have genuine medical contraindication to vaccination and welcome provisions to support people who have rare, but genuine, contraindications to vaccination,” Mr Jackson added.

Exemptions are provided only for people who are unable, due to a medical contraindication, to receive a dose, or a further dose, of a COVID-19 vaccine.

Medical contraindications include anaphylaxis after a previous dose of a COVID-19 vaccine; anaphylaxis to any component of the vaccine, including polysorbate or polyethylene glycol; history of capillary leak syndrome or thrombosis with thrombocytopenia occurring after a previous dose, in relation to AstraZeneca; myocarditis or pericarditis attributed to a previous dose of either Comirnaty or Spikevax; or the occurrence of any other serious adverse event that has been attributed to a previous dose of a COVID-19 vaccine by an experienced immunisation provider or medical specialist (and not attributed to any another identifiable cause), and reported to State adverse event programs and/or the TGA.

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