Pharmacies on the frontline

Date: 8 September 2021

The high rate of COVID-19 vaccinations delivered through community pharmacies has helped get the national vaccine rollout back on track. Across the country, community pharmacies are leading the way and here we profile two that are making a real difference in their communities.

Bowen, Queensland

The high rate of COVID-19 vaccinations delivered through community pharmacies has helped get the national vaccine rollout back on track. Across the country, community pharmacies are leading the way and here we profile two that are making a real difference in their communities.

The Pharmacy Guild of Australia’s National President Trent Twomey says that with lockdowns and restrictions impacting our way of life across many communities, vaccination is the key – and your pharmacist is readily available to help.

And he stresses the local community pharmacy is now playing a key role in Australia’s Covid-19 vaccinations.

“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.

Pharmacists are joining GPs and vaccine clinics in their communities to roll out the vaccines safely and quickly.

Take the example of LiveLife Pharmacy Bowen HealthCare at Bowen Queensland – not the epicentre of outbreaks, yet working closely with its community to tackle the risk and keep 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.

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

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

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

Earlwood NSW

As people of Sydney and NSW look to an easing of restrictions, vaccination rates through your community pharmacy are ramping up.

Pharmacy Guild of Australia National President, Adjunct Professor Trent Twomey, welcomes the milestone of total vaccinations across NSW passing the six million mark during the last week of August.

Alex Papadimitriou, a local community pharmacist in Sydney’s Earlwood, has already delivered more than 2,000 vaccinations since 25 July.

The vaccination service from Alex’s Harpers Pharmacy at Earlwood mirrors what’s happening across NSW, indeed across Australia.

Alex reports very strong demand from across his community including people asking for that all-important second dose.

His Earlwood pharmacy serves a population of 30,000. Across the community, people are becoming increasingly aware of their options to obtain vaccine. While our national leaders decide how and when restrictions can ease, our pharmacists are pivotal in the effort to reach 70% and 80% targets.

By booking, people can be sure of a highly efficient process without an extended wait. Queues at testing facilities and even some vaccination clinics may be necessarily long, but Alex Papadimitriou ensures his community members receive their booked vaccination on time. He structures his service to cater for all “walk-ins”, again without undue delay.

It’s busy. As Alex says: “We have been doing about 100 on a weekday and 50-80 on weekends. We expect demand to strengthen again as we pass four weeks from when we started.”

Efficiency and safety are the key metrics.

Free to patients, Government payments to pharmacists delivering the service are modest, but the community comes first.

Vaccine stocks are flowing. Alex has found that with a little persistence, stocks can be sourced – and he has even been able to share with a doctors’ surgery which had run out.

As a local leader, Alex understands his community and its needs: “We have a huge mix; the biggest nationalities in this area are Greeks, and Italians but lots of others are of Portuguese and Chinese descent. Many have English as a second language. Our staff speak Greek, Italian, Chinese, Vietnamese.”

It doesn’t stop there. His pharmacy caters for enquiries and bookings from backgrounds as diverse as Mongolia and Brazil. They are enquiries from people who are often dealing with limited information, including from Governments, but who find a skilled service from their pharmacist. As Alex explains: “Communication like this is a core competency for community pharmacy.”

He’s finding clients are pleasantly surprised to find how quick and easy it is to receive their vaccination from him – initial hesitation often gives way to a comment they should have had the service earlier.

They may be elderly; they may have mobility or transportation challenges; but clients are experiencing a personalised and professional vaccination service through their local community pharmacy, as Australia prepares for a new normal.

Contact: The Guild
Phone: 13GUILD

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Page last updated on: 07 September 2021