Mass vaccination idea doesn’t make sense

The NSW’s Government’s plan to rollout mass vaccination sites makes no sense.

Community pharmacies are expected to come onboard to provide COVID-19 vaccination as part of Phase 2a commencing in June. There are over 5,900 community pharmacies across Australia and in capital cities 97 per cent of Australians are within 2.5km of their local pharmacy. Outside of capital cities, 66 per cent are within 2.5km of their local pharmacy, making community pharmacies the most accessible healthcare provider nationally.

The National President of the Pharmacy Guild of Australia, Professor Trent Twomey, said it makes no sense for the NSW Government to exclude community pharmacies as one of their major vaccination providers for COVID.

“We’re trained and experienced in providing vaccination. Last year we provided an estimated 3 million flu vaccinations. We’ve done the same mandatory COVID vaccination training as the GPs and nurses. We have the consult rooms set up and ready to go. We’re only down the road for many Australians, who visit us at least 18 times a year on average,” he said.

“So with this mass vaccination idea, how does it work if I need to go to a footy stadium for my COVID shot? Assuming I’m in a city near a footy stadium, I’d have to take time off work during the week, then have to get to the stadium in the traffic probably with my young family in tow, wait for hours for my shot in close quarters with hundreds of others, putting us all at greater risk of community transmission, and then wait around, then to find a way home for all of us. Why wouldn’t I just want to go to my pharmacy down the road from home on a weekend? I could be back at home within 30 minutes with no disruption to my family, and a lot less risk of community transmission. It just doesn’t make sense.

“We’re used to working over public holidays and being open for extended hours and on weekends. Last year there were over 462 million individual patient visits to local pharmacies. We’ve also seen in the US that the most successful rollout has been in West Virginia where they’ve gone with the local pharmacy option as the vaccination provider.

“We understand and support the Government’s vaccine rollout strategy, but if we want to move to a rapid rollout of COVID-19 vaccination, it makes sense that they use our national network of healthcare professionals. In at least 60 towns around Australia we are the only primary healthcare provider in town.”

In mid-February over 4,000 community pharmacies expressed an interest in providing the COVID-19 vaccination. As of Friday 26 March, the Pharmacy Programs Administrator contacted those pharmacies to advise they were seeking further information. It is expected that the current stage of collecting further information will be completed by the end of April. Following that the Australian Government will undertake a selection process in May. The Pharmacy Guild has no details on the scope or timing of the selection process, or when community pharmacies will be brought on to provide COVID-19 vaccinations.

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