The Moderna mRNA vaccine has been granted provisional approval by the Therapeutic Goods Administration, meaning it can now be a part of the rollout. However, Trent Twomey, Pharmacy Guild of Australia National President, believes it needs to be approved for adolescents.
“We welcome this action by the TGA and look forward to Moderna approval for Australians aged 12 and over, before it becomes available in pharmacies in about six weeks’ time,” he noted. He also added to his observations that there was sufficient evidence to support the efficacy and safety of the vaccine in adolescents.
Associate Professor Chris Freeman, Pharmaceutical Society of Australia National President, is also on board with the decision. He however noted that all pending matters need to be approved so a high rate of vaccination is achieved.
“Whilst this is welcome news for Australians, it is important that governments continue to expand access to vaccines. This includes allowing pharmacists to administer all COVID-19 vaccines where supply is available,” he said.
“Pharmacists are one of our most accessible frontline health workforces and community pharmacies are open beyond business hours and on weekends. Pharmacists must play a key role for Australia to complete this vaccine rollout,” professor Freeman also added.
All vaccinators should enjoy equal compensation
Under a Federal Government-funded scheme, General Practitioners will receive a payment of $1000 once they vaccinate 50 elderly or disability workers. Trent Twomey believes that all vaccinators should get the same incentive payments, not just GPs.
“The Guild believes all vaccinators should be on an equal footing to ensure maximum uptake of vaccinations across Australia… community pharmacists have all the skills and training to provide a service for the aged and disability care sectors - where many pharmacists already have a close relationship on medicines supply and medicines checks,” he said.
Twomey believes Point-of-Care diagnostics are the next step for pharmacies
Trent Twomey believes that making Covid-19 diagnosis easier is a great leap towards a state where Australians can live normally, and rapid antigen test kits are the key to that. “We’ve been spending all our energies and efforts on ensuring that all vaccines are available to all Australians through all pharmacies, and we’ve made in-roads on that... but POC diagnostics is the next part that we need to focus on,” he said.
“People should not have to go to a hospital or drive-through clinic, people should be able to access Covid-19 testing through their local community pharmacy. This is happening overseas… and it will be happening in Australia.”
Twomey announced that the process of making these diagnostics available is two-fold. “The first is getting it paid for by the Commonwealth Government. The second one is getting it acknowledged by State and Territory officials… to get some form of national consistency.”
He also highlighted the safety and effectiveness of the rapid antigen tests. “They are very quick - within 15 to 30 minutes - and as I’ve said are being used in many other states and territories.”
Pharmacies making a loss with the $16 per vaccination fee
Eleanor Turnbull, a pharmacy assistant, addressed Australian Labor Party Leader Anthony Albanese, and MP Emma McBride in a letter about the inadequacies of the current vaccination fees. According to her, pharmacies that have joined the rollout are losing money and may soon drop out.
“Our pharmacy was excited to finally offer the AstraZeneca vaccine and received our first batch (600 doses)... we began within the hour, posting on community pages and contacting people directly,” she said. Turnbull then went on to explain the difficulties their pharmacy experienced during the process.
“The issue is, we will struggle to afford to continue. The process [of recording patient information] takes roughly 10 minutes then we have to monitor the patient for 15 minutes. We have to have at least one extra staff member, and our long standing customers don’t receive the usual level of service… I’m worried we’ll lose business… the $16 per dose potentially won’t even cover the wages.”
“We receive $26 when the patient returns for their second dose but that doesn’t help us right now… if the government is serious about vaccine accessibility then pharmacists have to at least break even and be able to pay themselves and their staff.”
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