Opposition questions why pharmacy is still marginalised from the bulk of the COVID vaccination process, despite recent small trial being announced
Federal Opposition Health Spokesperson Mark Butler told APP2021 delegates that the profession needed to be allowed to work to its full scope of practice in many areas, especially with regards to the COVID-19 vaccinations.
“I want to see your services as pharmacists just as engaged as they were last year in the height of the pandemic,” Mr Butler said.
“Your services have been deferred from their planned participation in phase 2A… and while we’re pleased about the announcement of the Queensland rollout, when the rest of your services are engaged in this incredibly important national logistical exercise remains unclear to me.”
Speaking to the media after his presentation, Mr Butler said he wanted to see the modelling on why most pharmacy’s would not commence COVID vaccinations until October or November, as revealed by Health Minister Greg Hunt at the conference.
Continuing the opposition’s critique of the rollout, Mr Butler said the program was “hopelessly behind schedule”, highlighting in particular the “scandalously” low level of vaccination of residents in disability care services around Australia.
“We need to ramp this up quickly. Vaccine hesitancy has taken up a very big uptick recently, but we’ve had no community information campaign to bolster confidence and counter this”.
“I don’t agree with the PM when he says the national vaccine campaign is not a race. It is a race. We need more urgency in this program, we need more trusted hands on deck. It is no longer a supply question”.
“At some point we’re going to have to engage community pharmacists in the way that was promised in January, and in my view, the sooner that happens the better for the community,” he said.
Mr Butler said the vaccination debate raised “deeper questions” about using pharmacists to their full scope of practice.
“I’ve had the view in all the years I’ve been involved with the health sector that there are particular groups we don’t allow to operate to their full potential, and the two that stick out for me are nurses and pharmacists.
I want to bring a view to this portfolio that sees all groups – particularly these two – allowed and encouraged to the tip of their scope of practice.
“Ultimately these are clinical, not political decisions, taken with with good evidence and analysis of your training and expertise,” he added.
“But there is an enormous workforce shortage and huge demand for health services right now…. it just doesn’t make sense to continue to put a glass ceiling on the way community pharmacists can deliver healthcare to their communities.
Mr Butler said he had already spoken with Pharmacy Guild leaders around the contribution community pharmacists could make towards medicine safety for older Australians, both at home or in residential aged care facilities.
“We’ve also had good discussions about how we can expand the use of opioid replacement therapies and make them more accessible to those who need it,” he said.