Further expansion of WA pharmacy vaccinations takes effect

Amanda Lyons

2/08/2019 12:48:35 PM

Pharmacists in Western Australia can now provide a wider range of vaccinations, but GPs are concerned this situation will compromise standard of care.

WA Health Minister Roger Cook.
WA Health Minister Roger Cook has announced that trained pharmacists can now offer a wider range of vaccinations in the state. (Image: Rebecca Gredley)

The expansion, which was approved by the WA Department of Health and took effect from 1 August, enables pharmacists to provide vaccines against illnesses including whooping cough, measles and meningococcal disease.
‘This simple change supplements existing immunisation programs and brings Western Australia into line with the rest of the nation, it improves national consistency in relation to pharmacist-issued vaccines,’ WA Health Minister Roger Cook said.
But Chair of RACGP WA, Dr Sean Stevens, believes it will compromise and fragment quality of patient care.
‘We think it’s best if the patient’s care takes place at one medical home, and that medical home is the general practice,’ he told newsGP.
Pharmacists must complete training via an online course before they can administer the expanded range of vaccines to people over the age of 16. Many have already done so, and the remainder are expected to follow by October this year. All vaccinations will be recorded on the Australian Immunisation Register.
The new vaccines trained pharmacists will be able to administer include:

  • measles, mumps and rubella (MMR)
  • diphtheria, tetanus and acellular pertussis (whooping cough)
  • meningococcal ACWY.
The WA Branch of the Pharmacy Guild has welcomed the move, stating it will help cover service gaps through the state’s large health jurisdiction and provide better coverage to the community.
‘There are community pharmacies in 40 towns with no GP service. We look forward to a comprehensive vaccination program raising the level of protection and bringing immunisation within easier reach for all West Australians,’ WA Guild President Andrew Ngeow said.
However, Dr Stevens disputes this claim, believing this approach creates a two-tiered level of healthcare.
‘The safest place for a patient to be vaccinated is always a general practice or a hospital setting,’ he said.
‘GPs have been doing this since vaccines were invented; we are geared up to provide the care that goes in and around administering a vaccine.
‘Rural patients deserve the same standard of care as urban patients, so to recommend a lower standard of care is, in my mind, not acceptable.’
Despite this, Mr Ngeow denies doctors and pharmacists need to be in opposition, stating that the Guild aims to work with GPs.
‘Our pharmacists have great relationships with and respect for GPs in the community and will continue to work collaboratively with them in a combined effort to improve public health,’ he said.
‘This measure is about putting patients and public health first.’
But Dr Stevens maintains that not only are vaccinations more safely carried out in general practice, they also provide a gateway to additional primary healthcare provision.
‘A vaccination is never just a vaccination – it’s an ideal opportunity to get people in and look at their other preventive health care: their mammograms, their bowel cancer screening, checking their blood pressure; making sure their other vaccinations are up to date,’ he said.
‘So to say it’s a simple, straightforward procedure is just not true. We feel that [expanding pharmacy vaccinations] is really a retrograde step for holistic care for patients.’
The expansion of vaccines that can be delivered in a pharmacy setting follows the WA Government’s announcement earlier this year that pharmacists would be able to provide influenza vaccination to children as young as 10.
A recent report by the WA Health Department also suggests pharmacy’s scope of practice may expand further in the state in future, in areas such as mental health, chronic disease management and hospital discharge.
Dr Stevens is opposed to such changes, believing they would represent serious overreach for the profession.
‘Pharmacists are trained in the quality use of medicines, that’s their scope of practice, and they do it well,’ he said.
‘But they are not trained in the management of mental health. They are not trained in the diagnosis of conditions. And the majority of people with chronic medical conditions don’t just have one condition, but multiple conditions.
‘For a pharmacist to go through a training course of a few weeks to manage asthma or diabetes does nothing to coordinate that care for all of the patient’s medical problems – and it further fragments the care which is the bedrock of the Australian healthcare system which is the envy of the world.
‘So why we would seek to try and undermine that excellent system, is beyond me.’

Pharmacy RACGP WA vaccinations WA Western Australia

newsGP weekly poll Should after-hours Medicare rebates extend to all-day Saturday?

newsGP weekly poll Should after-hours Medicare rebates extend to all-day Saturday?



Login to comment