Eligible patients in New South Wales will soon be able to receive their influenza vaccines from community pharmacists under the National Immunisation Program (NIP).
NSW Minister for Health and Medical Research Brad Hazzard made a commitment to include pharmacists in the program in response to PSA’s 2020–21 pre-budget submission.
By 2022, NSW residents who are most vulnerable to influenza, including patients over 65, will be able to access the influenza vaccine in their local pharmacy through the NIP. This brings the state in line with Western Australia, Victoria and the ACT, where pharmacists have been providing NIP influenza vaccines for several years.
The commitment is contingent on working with the Commonwealth Government to secure the distribution and supply of the vaccines. As part of the agreement, measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccines will also be distributed via community pharmacies.
PSA National President Associate Professor Chris Freeman welcomed the initiative, and said it would allow NSW to build on its already high vaccination rates.
‘PSA’s vision for a safer, more accessible and more accountable health system, Pharmacists in 2023, is the foundation for all of our pre-budget submissions,’ he said.
‘This commitment from the NSW Health Minister shows further confidence in the provision of safe, effective health care by pharmacists.
‘Consistent with our vision, PSA continues to work with governments around Australia to help achieve a future where pharmacists are increasingly involved, responsible and accountable for the medicine safety of their patients.’
Increasing vaccine access
Allowing pharmacists to vaccinate under the NIP will give the community more options for when and where they get vaccinated, said PSA NSW President Chelsea Felkai.
‘Particularly in regional and remote NSW, people may have trouble accessing a GP,’ she said.
‘In addition, some people do not visit a GP regularly, or do not have a GP.
‘Allowing pharmacist immunisers to provide NIP influenza vaccines will increase vaccination rates and herd immunity to influenza within the NSW community.’
Pharmacist immuniser and owner of My Community Pharmacy Shortland in Newcastle, John Jones MPS, agreed that it’s not always easy for patients to access these vaccines through their GP, and that pharmacists are in a prime position to fill the void.
‘For those patients who, for whatever reason, are unable to get in to see a GP, it might impact their decision making when it comes to vaccines,’ Mr Jones told Australian Pharmacist.
‘When it’s too hard in terms of making an appointment, or the location isn’t convenient, the likelihood of vaccination may be reduced.’
Increasing the range of vaccines that pharmacists are able to administer under the NIP would build the capacity of the workforce able to deliver these services, Mr Jones said.
Such changes in policy could also have an impact on the standing of the profession in the future.
‘We’ve done the training, we are accredited to administer vaccines and deliver them in a safe way – so why not try to fill that space,’ Mr Jones said.
‘Hopefully it will help to reorient pharmacy back to focusing on healthcare services.
‘The more pressure is put on us to become healthcare destinations, the better it is for the profession.’