Utilisation of community pharmacies in vaccine roll-out a mixed bag

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While National Cabinet’s decision to bring forward the use of community pharmacies in rural and remote areas in the Covid-19 vaccine roll-out has been welcomed by the Pharmacy Guild of Australia, there remains concern about the deferral of the broader role of community pharmacies in the national vaccine roll-out.

Community pharmacies to be utilised in rural and remote communities 

The National President of the Pharmacy Guild of Australia, Professor Trent Twomey says that utilising community pharmacies in rural and remote areas will help ensure maximum uptake of the vaccine in these communities and will “help ensure that communities in these areas are not disadvantaged”.

“National Cabinet stipulated that it’s up to the States and Territories to incorporate community pharmacies into their roll-out plans in rural and remote areas where there are no or limited other places where they can access the vaccine,” says Professor Twomey.

“For Australians living in regional communities and the outback, 65% of people are within 2.5km of a pharmacy.

“For those whose home is a plane flight to the nearest hospital, for those living in small rural towns and in remote communities, the answer of State and Territory governments to keep people healthy is the network of local community pharmacies right across the country.”

Professor Twomey adds that “all pharmacies identified under the rural, remote and very remote categories are now an option for the States and Territories to turn on in the recalibrated roll-out”.

Broader role of community pharmacies in vaccine roll-out deferred

While the “recalibrated Covid-19 vaccine roll-out” in rural and remote areas is welcomed, speaking about the National Cabinet decision to defer the broader role of community pharmacies in the national Covid-19 vaccine roll-out, Professor Twomey is calling for clarification around what this deferral means exactly.

“There is no timeline attached to the deferral, so we need to know if it means the full roll-out is deferred until vaccine stocks are available or if the deferral is based on other criteria,” says Professor Twomey.

“We have a network of more than 5900 pharmacies across the country and we are ready to go.

“We have done the same training as doctors and nurse immunisers and we have the added benefit of more than half of these pharmacies being open extended hours and often at weekends. Some pharmacies are even open 24-hours a day.

“Clearly, if you want community immunity then access is a huge factor and no healthcare professionals are more accessible than community pharmacists,” he says.