Currently in NSW, flu immunisations can only be administered by doctors and nurses.
But, allowing properly-trained pharmacists to administer flu vaccinations to healthy adults will improve the general health in the community; reduce doctor visits and hospital admissions; and improve productivity in the State’s economy.
The influenza vaccine is generally considered to be up to 90 per cent effective in preventing influenza illness for six to 12 months in healthy adults.
All pharmacists administering vaccinations will be required to complete a two-day training course accredited by NSW Health. The training will include first aid, CPR and administration of adrenalin and managing anaphylaxis. Participating pharmacists will also be required to hold appropriate professional indemnity insurance and to have a private consultation area on their premises.
This will complement free flu vaccines under the National Immunisation Program provided by GPs to high-risk groups including all people 65 and older, pregnant women, people with chronic conditions and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders aged 15 and older.
“This is a new approach. It is a practical and sensible approach to reducing health costs and protecting the community. Overseas studies have found that pharmacist provided vaccinations were effective in targeting men who did not usually take the preventative measure,” Mr Foley said.
“Allowing trained pharmacists to administer adult flu vaccines is a preventative health measure.
“The public health imperative is that we must get more people vaccinated – and pharmacists offer a safe, convenient and cost-effective way of delivering that outcome.
Since their introduction, vaccinations have saved millions of lives and influenza is the classic vaccine-preventable disease.
Last year, NSW Health reported 15,700 cases of influenza strain A and 2,500 cases of influenza strain B. Nationally, influenza accounts for 18,404 hospitalisations and up to 3457 deaths a year – and tackling the disease costs the Australian health system $115 million. The NSW Business Chamber estimates that the flu season can cost the NSW economy more than $482 million.
Several other Australian States and Territories including Queensland, the Northern Territory and Western Australia have allowed varying dispensing rights to pharmacists. A number of other countries including the United Kingdom, Ireland, New Zealand, Canada and the United States allow pharmacists to provide vaccinations.
Overseas studies have shown that pharmacy-administered vaccines are especially effective in targeting young and middle-aged men. A Queensland trial found that one-in-four people immunised at pharmacies are walk-ins who had not planned on getting a vaccination.
In December 2013, the Pharmacy Board of Australia affirmed the administration of vaccines to be within the scope of pharmacy practice. The Pharmaceutical Society of Australia has also developed practice guidelines.
Shadow Minister for Health Walt Secord added: “Pharmacists are highly skilled and trusted health professionals and research shows that pharmacist-delivered vaccinations increase community immunisation rates. Particularly in rural, regional and coastal Australia – where there is reduced access to doctors – pharmacists are an important part of the health care system.
“The public health benefits of this measure are clear – and it is a far more intelligent approach to controlling public health expenditure than the Tony Abbott GP tax.”
Labor will also examine extending the pharmacist-delivered vaccinations to include other vaccines such as adult measles and whooping cough.
As of December 2014, there were 1,907 pharmacies in NSW.