The Health Minister, Greg Hunt, outlined plans last year to distribute the COVAX vaccine across Australia. According to him, it is “one of the largest logistical exercises in Australian history.” It was decided that the logistic company, Linfox, would work with the officials in the Department of Health to handle the mammoth operation.
Linfox is a global logistics company that has operated in Australia for years, having built a distribution network that’s stable and efficient enough to handle temperature-sensitive vaccines.
However, the Guild has urged the Health Minister to reconsider, stating that the Community Service Obligation wholesalers can also support the national rollout. The National President, George Tambassis, said that many unknowns regarding the vaccine distribution exist, and efforts are underway to acquire more knowledge.
Responding to questions about the logistics of the operation, Tambassis stated that the Guild is “advocating pretty hard to get the CSO wholesalers involved ... because [they] deliver to pharmacies on a daily basis.”
According to Tambassis, the Guild has already written the Minister with their thoughts on the choice of logistics. “We have no issue with Linfox being part of the solution, but you should also be using the CSO retailers because [it’s easier] to order from those particular wholesalers.”
The Guild is “acutely aware of the strategic importance of the successful Covid-19 vaccination program through community pharmacies”, he stated. Stating an example of opportunities, Tambassis said a successful rollout could give pharmacies access to the National Immunisation Program country-wide according to the Guild’s current practice strategy.
Pharmacy owners cannot make their staff receive vaccination
Speaking on a related topic, Tambassis also noted that pharmacy owners cannot compel their staff to be vaccinated. He stated that receiving the vaccine is voluntary, and it was unlikely that public health orders would be made to require staff vaccinations.
“While the government aims to have as many Australians as possible choose to be vaccinated, receiving [it] is voluntary.“ This isn’t surprising since WorkSafe Australia has reported limited information concerning transmission in the workplace. Pharmacy staff will be eligible to receive the vaccine from Phase 1b, along with GPs and other health workers.
Tambassis recommends that owners begin conversations about receiving the vaccine, primarily as a means of protecting the community as well as themselves. Staff who opt to receive the jab will likely get a dose of the AstraZeneca or Pfizer vaccine. “The Guild recommends that you commence a consultation process with your staff [about their vaccination choices],” he stated.
The National Pharmaceutical Services Association prepares for the rollout of the flu jab
The Covid-19 vaccine isn’t the only jab to make rounds in the coming weeks. The NPSA has noted an increase in demand for the flu jab as compared to 2020 figures.
Speaking in an interview, NPSA chair Richard Vincent, stated that flu prevention remains a critical part of health and that the NPSA is prepared to deliver the medicines as planned. He also touched on the association’s expertise and stated that they are “backed by [their] experience in medicines handling and end-to-end logistics including cold chain.”
The PSA recommends five actions points for improving rural health
In its Medicine Safety: Rural and Remote Care Report, the PSA issued recommendations for improving rural dwellers’ health outcomes. They included developing national minimum medicine safety standards, encouraging collaborative pharmacy practice, and improving access to Medication Management Reviews.
Two recommendations were particularly focused on rural health care: boosting rural pharmacist workforce capacity and capability and embedding pharmacists with Aboriginal community controlled health organisations.
In the report, the PSA noted that medication non-compliance in rural areas incurred medical costs upwards of $2 billion. The rate of unintentional drug-induced deaths is also much higher than obtainable in capital cities.
In an address, the National President, Professor Chris Freeman, stated a problem with data not being routinely logged, monitored, and reported. He said that it’s partially due “to the tyranny of distance, inflexible regulations, and health workforce shortages.”
He further mentioned that pharmacists “need to be far better at recording these medicine-related problems when they occur.” Freeman also emphasised the importance of quality health for all Australians. “[They] deserve better … we need to allow [pharmacists in rural areas] to be able to use their expertise to support patients.”
Accurate and up-to-date records are only part of the picture. Rural pharmacies are also faced with other problems, like understaffing, overwhelming patient needs, and providing continuous care for at-risk populations.
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