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Extra flu vax to benefit all Australians

The Pharmacy Guild of Australia
By Suzanne Greenwood
Executive Director

This week, we were pleased to welcome the announcement that additional flu vaccine stock will be provided for the benefit of all Australians in the coming flu season.

Health Minister Greg Hunt’s confirmation that an additional three million doses will be supplied, bringing the total number of flu vaccines available to 16.5 million for 2020, will ease some of the anxiety that was beginning to build among community pharmacists and their patients.

The demand for influenza vaccination this year has been extremely high and largely unforeseen, partly because of the focus on health and respiratory wellness caused by the onset of the COVID-19 crisis. Many community pharmacies have reported very high demand, with some pharmacies expending their early deliveries of stock in record time, leaving them without stock in the face of strong patient demand.

The additional three million doses won’t materialise instantly, so it will likely be the case that some community pharmacies will continue to be out of vaccine for a while – but hopefully the supply chain will deliver in good time for the excess patient demand to be met in the coming weeks ahead of winter.

The very strong focus on flu vaccination this year by so many Australians promises to lead to a high level of herd immunity and hopefully produce a moderate influenza rate across our community this year – at a critical time with COVID-19 threatening.

We encourage anyone who has not yet had their flu vaccination to contact their local community pharmacy to arrange a vaccination now if stock is available, or to register to be contacted when stock arrives.

It is worth remembering that as recently as about five years ago, no community pharmacist in Australia was authorised to administer flu vaccinations. Now, community pharmacies across Australia are benefitting public health and herd immunity by vaccinating millions of Australians, including children from the age of 10.

And there is more community pharmacy can do. All of the States and Territories need to recognise the added value of pharmacist vaccination and give community pharmacies access to the NIP (National Immunisation Program) vaccines, including those vaccines specifically for vulnerable people. These vaccines are administered through pharmacies in Victoria, WA and the ACT. It needs to be national, uniform and now.

The Pharmacy Guild also welcomes confirmation that community pharmacists will be able to provide medication review services over video or teleconferencing platforms from this week for eligible patients.

The move will ensure vulnerable patients, who are eligible for a medication reviews (MedsCheck, Diabetes MedsCheck, Home Medicines Review or Residential Medication Management Review) can receive the pharmacist service while remaining isolated from COVID-19, ensuring the maximum level of safety for patients and for community pharmacists who provide the services.

It remains the case that the best form of health care for all patients is face-to-face interaction with a health professional, and hopefully that will return to be the norm in the not-too-distant future.

During the current crisis, we are seeing very good co-operation among the Federal, State and Territory jurisdictions. Health authorities are aligning beneficial changes and temporary modifications to health regulations to try to ensure that patients continue to get appropriate primary health care and medication during periods of social isolation and distancing.

It is very important that during the COVID-19 shutdown and isolation period, people continue to receive their normal medical care from their regular team, including their GP and their local pharmacist.

Most State Governments are aligned to the Federal changes to regulations, making it possible for doctors to prescribe medicines and convey the prescription digitally, or by fax to the patient’s chosen pharmacy. Medicines can be dispensed to the patient, either in person or through a home delivery where available, without the need for the paper prescription to be provided to the pharmacy. This makes sense and is a significant benefit for patients at this time.

All patients and, particularly those with long-term chronic conditions, should continue to see their regular GP and maintain contact with their local pharmacy.

Source Contact: The Guild
Phone: 13GUILD

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