Community Pharmacy to join COVID-19 vaccine workforce

Community pharmacies around Australia are being invited to join the nation-wide effort to administer the COVID-19 vaccine to millions of Australians over the coming months, as work continues to protect more people from the deadly pandemic.

The Australian Government is committed to providing access to safe and effective vaccines for COVID-19, and the distribution effort will be one of the largest logistical operations in our country’s history.

An expression of interest (EOI) process will commence on 1 February 2021 for community pharmacies around Australia to participate in the, “Community Pharmacy COVID‑19 Vaccination Program,” to immunise priority populations from Phase 2a (expected from May 2021) onwards of the Australian COVID-19 Vaccination rollout strategy.

Minister for Health and Aged Care Greg Hunt said, “Community pharmacy will be an important partner in the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines.”

“Utilising the existing network of thousands of community pharmacies will ensure the general population have broader access to COVID-19 vaccinations, provide choice in where the community receive a vaccine, and address barriers to access some parts of rural and regional Australia,” Minister Hunt said.

“Participation in the program will be voluntary and pharmacies will need to demonstrate they meet the highest safety standards and have capacity and capability to deliver COVID-19 vaccines, as well as ensuring they continue to provide important services to their local communities. These standards have been informed by the expert medical advice from the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI).”

The National President of the Pharmacy Guild of Australia, George Tambassis, said community pharmacists across Australia welcomed the opportunity to be part of the healthcare sector’s commitment to ensuring the maximum possible uptake of COVID-19 vaccinations.

“Some 94 per cent of pharmacies are members of the pharmacy profession’s quality assurance program, QCPP, and the robustness of this program underpins the sector’s ability to meet the challenges of the pandemic and the delivery of COVID-19 vaccinations, while maintaining the levels of service and medicine delivery critical to their role as frontline healthcare professionals,” Mr Tambassis said.

“With a network of some 5.800 pharmacies across Australia, appropriately trained pharmacists are ideally placed to provide the opportunities and access for Australians to receive a COVID-19 vaccination.

“Our members are committed to helping protect communities in all areas of the country and, as has been shown during all phases of this pandemic, will continue to go above and beyond for their patients.

“The Guild looks forward to helping ensure the resources and skills of pharmacists are recognised and quickly utilised in the COVID-19 vaccine rollout.”

An EOI process commenced recently for general practices to assist in the delivery of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, and community pharmacies will be another important vaccination point for many communities.

Community pharmacies will be incentivised to provide both doses of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine to Australians wishing to be vaccinated, to ensure maximum uptake of the vaccine.

The Australian Government will continue to work with state and territory health authorities and the health sector to finalise the locations for vaccine distribution.

All health professionals involved in the vaccination program will have undertaken specialised training, which is currently in development. This training is expected to be rolled out from early February.

Many of Australia’s community pharmacies are already critical in the delivery of the seasonal influenza vaccines across the entire population, and their efforts in stepping up to support the COVID‑19 vaccine program will be important in ensuring wide accessibility and take up.

This will be the first time a national community pharmacy vaccination program will be rolled out funded by the Commonwealth Government.

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