‘Very compelling’ plan could save COVID-19 jab rollout

 

PHARMACISTS will be fast-tracked into Australia's faltering coronavirus vaccine program under a "very compelling" plan being considered by the federal government.

It comes as Prime Minister Scott Morrison warned mass vaccination hubs would not be considered until the final three months of 2021.

This is when Australia is expected to receive "greater quantities" of vaccine doses, including the extra 20m of recently purchased Pfizer and potentially Novavax.

The "fast start pharmacy proposal", put forward by the Pharmacy Guild of Australia, would involve activating community pharmacies in regional, rural and remote areas with no access or access to just one GP.

Health Minister Greg Hunt. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Gary Ramage
Health Minister Greg Hunt. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Gary Ramage

 

Pharmacists were meant to join the jab program when Phase 2 began.

In Queensland, this would include towns like Stanthorpe, Clermont, Cape York, Mt Isa and Magnetic Island, allowing residents to head to their local pharmacist to get their coronavirus jab.

Health Minister Greg Hunt described the proposal, which had been put to him in the last 48 hours as of Sunday, as "very compelling" and said he wanted to "reach a landing" on the proposal over the next two weeks.

Mr Hunt also ruled out signing on veterinarians and dentists to Australia's coronavirus vaccine rollout, despite the medical professionals being recruited in other countries like the US to speed up the jab program.

 

Trent Twomey at Alive Pharmacy at DFO. Picture: Stewart McLean
Trent Twomey at Alive Pharmacy at DFO. Picture: Stewart McLean

Pharmacy Guild of Australia national president Trent Twomey, who is based in Cairns, said departmental data revealed hundreds of communities in regional Australia had no GP or only one GP.

Mr Twomey said it was important "all community pharmacies are activated sooner rather than later" in order for Australia to reach herd immunity quicker.

"This is saying, let's leave the large Soviet-style mass vaccination hubs as a measure of last resort," he said.

Australian Medical Association vice president Dr Chris Moy said the GP rollout remained the best system, particularly amid vaccine hesitancy around concerns about very rare blood clotting caused by the AstraZeneca jab.

 

AstraZeneca blood clots: the risks and symptoms you should know: AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine blood clotting cause still 'unknown' but understanding the risk is simple.
AstraZeneca blood clots: the risks and symptoms you should know: AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine blood clotting cause still 'unknown' but understanding the risk is simple.

 

Mr Morrison on Sunday made clear that mass vaccination hubs would only be used "in addition" to GPs- who have quickly turned into the workhorses of Australia's COVID-19 vaccine rollout, delivering nearly half of the 1.49m doses administered nationally.

The use of mass vaccination hubs, which Mr Morrison indication would be a decision of individual states and territories, will be discussed at today's meeting of national cabinet.

The main agenda items of national cabinet, which from today will meet biweekly, is the major recalibration of the country's rollout in light of medical advice the AstraZeneca jab could cause rare blood clots in those under 50.

This includes changes to Australia's vaccination policy- a 22-page document that outlines the role and responsibilities of governments in the rollout, how vaccine safety is monitored and how doses are prioritised to the community.

Originally published as 'Very compelling' plan could save COVID-19 jab rollout