Pharmacists and GPs welcome changes to vaccine rollout

Monday, 26 April, 2021

Pharmacists and GPs welcome changes to vaccine rollout

The Society of Hospital Pharmacists of Australia (SHPA) and Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) have welcomed changes to the COVID-19 vaccine rollout.

As part of the updated strategy, the AstraZeneca vaccine will be offered to Australians aged 50 and over at state-run clinics and respiratory clinics from 3 May, and at GP clinics from 17 May, while Pfizer vaccines remain prioritised for Australians under 50 years of age in Phase 1a and 1b until supplies increase in the second half of the year.

The recalibration of Australia’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout strategy will see hospital pharmacists in crucial roles expanding state government vaccine hubs in strategic and high-impact locations. SHPA Chief Executive Kristin Michaels said the changes will see the full, complementary strengths of Australia’s acute and primary healthcare sectors utilised symbiotically to increase vaccination rates.

“The COVID-19 vaccine rollout is incredibly complex in scale and scope, and we welcome the flexibility of government and health professionals in making these important changes in response to new safety data,” Michaels said.

“We reiterate our support for the government’s view that GP clinics remain the most vital COVID-19 vaccine access point for the wider Australian community, and support this week’s proposal by the Pharmacy Guild of Australia to bring forward the ability for community pharmacies in non-metropolitan areas with limited or no GP access to become vaccine hubs for these communities.

“By expanding access across the board — from large metropolitan hubs to GP clinics — the recalibrated strategy will harness the responsiveness of pharmacists to the needs of the populations they serve, wherever they may live.”

Michaels added that hospital pharmacists continue to be instrumental in the establishment and operation of state-run vaccination clinics across the country, ensuring vaccine doses are appropriately handled and prepared according to strict protocols.

“We will continue to support our members as they work with their hospital colleagues to upscale this crucial arm of Australia’s vaccine strategy, with some state-run clinics having the capacity to administer thousands of doses each day. Equally important is the extensive reach of GP clinics and community pharmacies, and it is inspiring to see all pharmacists stepping up to the challenge with a singular focus on safe, robust herd immunity.”

RACGP President Dr Karen Price encouraged people in the over-50 age bracket to roll up their sleeves and get vaccinated.

“If you are aged 50 or over, please get vaccinated at the first opportunity,” she said. “Unfortunately, confusion over the changes to the AstraZeneca vaccine rollout has led to some patients cancelling their vaccine appointment or deciding that they will not be vaccinated once eligible.

“We must reverse this trend, because we will not be able to protect our community unless people put their hand up to be vaccinated. Once more, I urge people to spread the word to friends, family and colleagues that they should get vaccinated as soon as they are eligible.”

The RACGP President stressed that the AstraZeneca vaccine will save lives.

“I appreciate that changes to the nation’s vaccine rollout can lead to confusion, but please keep in mind this is still a very safe vaccine and the risk of adverse effects is extremely small,” she said.

“If you are uncertain about whether to be vaccinated or not, talk to your usual GP and do not rely on information spread by anti-vaxxers on social media.

“Younger people may be growing impatient and asking when they will be vaccinated. I completely understand why you might be frustrated but rest assured your turn will come; nobody will miss out.”

Dr Price said general practice would remain front and centre in the vaccine rollout.

“GPs are perfectly positioned to deliver a safe and effective mass vaccination program, so long as we have adequate vaccine supplies and support,” she said. “It was excellent to hear Professor Brendan Murphy announce that as part of the recalibration there would be increased supply of AstraZeneca doses to general practice.

“The RACGP is not opposed to mass vaccination hubs; we believe that they will play a vital role. However, GPs are the ones with the right skill set and expertise to talk to patients who are wavering on whether to be vaccinated — it is what we do.”

Image credit: © CHETRONI

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