Regardless, the speed at which the government wants to roll out the COVID vaccine – up to one million doses a day once full approval occurs and supply chains open up – means it will be nigh impossible to achieve vaccination targets unless more creative measures are implemented.
Pharmacists and the COVID vaccine
While hospitals and GPs will be the likely initial primary locations for the COVID vaccine rollout, other options are being considered for mass vaccination clinics. These include drive-through pop up clinics, sporting ovals and stadiums, and rural hubs.
Pharmacists performing standard immunisations is nothing new. According to the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia’s (PSA) Victorian Branch president John Jackson, “Pharmacists have been immunising in Victoria since June 2016 and have demonstrated that they have the skills and competence necessary to do so.’
This has led to calls from the PSA to be able to administer a range of vaccines, including pneumococcal, varicella-zoster and influenza type B. And now, of course, there is also a call for the COVID vaccine to be included.
On the surface, this makes complete sense. The extensive spread of pharmacist locations across the country offers unparalleled access to the vaccine administered by a huge body of skilled, competent medical professionals who can expedite the COVID vaccine rollout. However, not everyone views this as an optimal option.
Khorshid has a high regard for pharmacies in terms of their importance in being health hubs and an integral component of primary care. However, he holds concerns over the retail component of their livelihood.
‘Pharmacy is an important part of primary care, but also a retail space trying to sell you products,’ Khorshid said, arguing that GPs are better suited to the storage, delivery and crucial record-keeping aspects around the COVID vaccine rollout
Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) President Dr Bruce Willett has supported Khorshid, also voicing concerns over the safety of using pharmacists during the COVID vaccine rollout. He told NewsGP, ‘It’s a new vaccine, it’s come out quite quickly and so general practice is a far safer environment.’
So, will pharmacists be involved in the COVID vaccine rollout?
Despite the concerns of peak medical bodies, it looks likely that the government’s strong desire to see a rapid Australia-wide vaccination program will be the key determinant in the role of pharmacists and the rollout.
While no firm decisions have been made about this or how it will work, watch this space as we get closer to the end of February and the proposed commencement of vaccinations.
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