National News

Community pharmacies: Helping keep our regions safe

North to south and east to west across regional, rural and remote Australia, community pharmacies are delivering COVID-19 vaccinations free of charge.

It’s helping keep our communities safe.

The Pharmacy Guild of Australia’s National President, Adjunct Professor Trent Twomey, says that with lockdowns and restrictions impacting our way of life across many communities, vaccination is the key.

Across the regions, community pharmacists are trusted health professionals with deep local knowledge.

More than 3,500 community pharmacies are coming online to assist the national rollout, with more looking to be involved every week.

As Mr Twomey says: They are ready, willing and able to help.

“I was pleased to be part of the efficient and effective negotiation between pharmacists and authorities to ensure we get Australia vaccinated as soon as possible.

“And I can report – it’s working extremely well,” Mr Twomey says.

Take the example of LiveLife Pharmacy Bowen HealthCare at Bowen Queensland (see staff photo) – not the epicentre of outbreaks, yet working closely with their community to tackle the risk and keep the virulent Covid at bay.

From the outset, Lee McLennan, Rebecca Edgerton and Wally Maguire at the LiveLife pharmacies have ensured their staff are fully trained in answering questions and assisting with bookings.

They sat down with staff, took them through scenarios and prepared the staff for initial interface with patients.

From this point the pharmacists themselves are dealing direct with patients, discussing the vaccination and answering questions. It’s vital work given the amount of information – and misinformation – circulating including across social media.

Is there a blood clot risk? Will I feel unwell for a day or two? Community pharmacists are fully equipped. They have the answers.

As Rebecca at Bowen says: “Early on, some clients were apprehensive but once they have the discussion and we talk about side effects they are actually quite relieved they will be covered. So they are excited by the time of the second dose to get it off their mind.

“They are very thankful for us putting up our hands to participate. And they say it was an easy process because everything was explained before the vaccination.

“They trust us. They trust our advice and they know it wouldn’t happen if it was not suitable.”

From their first vaccination on 7 June, the pharmacists at Bowen have found a common approach: People may be a little unsure at the start of the process but are relieved after their first dose – and feeling much more confident of the future after both doses.

In Bowen they serve a community of some 12,000 people.

And you don’t have to be a local. Bowen is renowned for its influx of caravanners from Victoria and NSW, especially across the winter months. In many cases, visitors to the region have had their first vaccination closer to home and are coming into the pharmacy for their second.

It all works. Smoothly and well.

Across all Australian States and Territories, more and more emphasis is falling on vaccinations as the key to lifting restrictions and restoring our way of life – at least to a “new normal”.

It’s a massive logistical exercise – but delivered by trusted, skilled, trained local health professionals.

As Trent Twomey stresses: Your local community pharmacy is there for you.