National Cabinet’s decision to bring forward the use of community pharmacies in rural and remote areas as part of the recalibrated COVID-19 vaccination rollout has been welcomed by the Pharmacy Guild of Australia.
The National President of the Pharmacy Guild of Australia, Professor Trent Twomey, said the decision accelerated the initial plan to bring pharmacies online as part of the rollout from Stage 2a and would help to ensure maximum uptake of the vaccine in rural and remote communities.
“National Cabinet stipulated that it’s up to the States and Territories to incorporate community pharmacies into their rollout plans in rural and remote areas where there are no or limited other places they access the vaccine,” Professor Twomey said.
“For Australians living in regional communities and the outback, 65 per cent of people are within 2.5 km of a pharmacy. For those whose home is a plane flight to the nearest hospital, for those living in small rural towns and in remote communities, the answer for State and Territory governments to keep people healthy is the network of local community pharmacies right across the country.
“Pharmacies are listed under a system of categories which identifies their location as being city, rural, remote or very remote. All pharmacies identified under the rural, remote and very remote categories are now an option for the States and Territories to turn on in the recalibrated rollout. These categories are defined as:
- Large rural towns: Those within a 15km drive of a town with between 15,000-50,000 residents.
- Medium rural towns: Those within a 10km drive of a town with between 5,000-15,000 residents.
- Small rural towns: All remaining inner and outer regional areas.
- Remote communities: Remote mainland areas and remote islands less than 5km offshore with a population of less than 1,000 people.
- Very remote communities: Very remote areas and remote islands more than 5km offshore.
“Using these pharmacies will help to ensure that communities in these areas are not disadvantaged by any focus on mass vaccination sites in metropolitan areas.”
Professor Twomey said National Cabinet also decided that the broader role of community pharmacies in the national rollout be deferred.
“The community pharmacy sector needs more clarity of exactly what this deferral means,” he said.
“There is no timeline attached to the deferral, so we need to know if it means the full rollout is deferred until vaccine stocks are available or if the deferral based on other criteria. We have a network of more than 5,900 pharmacies across the country and we are ready to go.
“We have done the same training as doctors and nurse immunisers and we have the added benefit of more than half of these pharmacies being open extended hours and often at weekends. Some pharmacies are even open 24 hours a day.
“Clearly if you want community immunity then access is a huge factor and no healthcare professionals are more accessible than community pharmacists.”