Pharmacy flu shots policy under fire in Queensland

By Tom Ravlic

September 9, 2021

Over 65s in QLD may not get the seasonal flu vaccine through pharmacies.
Over 65s in QLD may not get the seasonal flu vaccine through pharmacies. (Leigh Prather/Adobe)

The Queensland government has come under fire from the local branch of the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia (PSA) for not permitting people over the age of 65 to be able to get the seasonal flu vaccine through community pharmacies.

General practitioners in Queensland are able to administer the seasonal vaccine approved by ATAGI but pharmacies are frozen out by government regulation.

Shane MacDonald, the Queensland branch president of the pharmacists’ peak body, said increasing the number of locations from which the annual flu vaccination could be administered would help improve health outcomes.

“As we prepare for 2022, allowing community pharmacist immunisers to provide NIP-funded influenza vaccines will increase vaccination rates and herd immunity to influenza within the state, preventing death and hospitalisations in those aged over 65 years,” MacDonalad said.

“As we have seen since pharmacists started providing influenza vaccines, immunisation rates have risen in the adult population overall.”

MacDonald said more than 20 percent of those over 65 are not vaccinated against influenza and that the PSA estimates expanding access to flu shots through pharmacies would see an increase in coverage of between 10 to 20 percent in that demographic.

“As we have seen during the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, pharmacists are a critical part of the vaccination workforce. It is time to align the funding and regulation of pharmacist-administered vaccinations with that of all other authorised immunisers,” MacDonald said.

Pharmacists are also pushing for the New South Wales government to allow for rapid antigen testing so that they are able to keep pharmacies open in local government areas of concern during the current outbreak.

Chelsea Felkai, the PSA’s branch president in New South Wales, said rapid antigen testing would ensure that pharmacies could keep their doors open.

“As we move into a new phase of the pandemic with significantly higher case numbers, Rapid Antigen Testing will need to play a significant role in reducing isolation periods of pharmacists and identifying infection prior to onset of symptoms in high-risk settings,” Felkai said.

“This approach is desperately needed in rural areas. Many of our regional communities are already facing significant workforce shortages. They do not have the resources or flexibility to cope when employees need to isolate for extended periods. Given that PCR test results are currently taking five or six days to be returned, this potentially closes a pharmacy for an entire week.”


Pharmacists ask why access to government-funded flu shot varies among states

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