Miller’s Pharmacy Yass Pharmacy Manager Grant Douglas earlier this week said he was “disappointed” with the limited numbers of community pharmacies across the state announced to administer the AstraZeneca vaccine.

Last Thursday NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said that only 22 community pharmacies in NSW will commence vaccinating patients with the preferred vaccine for people aged 60 years and over, from the weeks to come.

This is in contrast to more than 1,200 community pharmacies across the state that have put their hands up to join the rollout, including Miller’s Pharmacy who were earlier approved to be an administration point for the Covid-19 vaccine.

“We would absolutely love the opportunity to be an administration point for the AstraZeneca vaccine,” Mr Douglas said.

“From the amount of questions we get on a regular basis about the Covid vaccine, I think a lot of people are expecting that we would give it considering that they have been receiving their flu vaccine from here over the past few years.”

It was back in February the Yass-based pharmacy on Comur Street was asked to submit an Expression of Interest to become a vaccination centre for Covid vaccine, this was an open invitation for pharmacies all across NSW.

Having participated in the EOI, Mr Douglas found the process to be “too slow” with it returned with additional questions then a lack of response.

Since the EOI Miller’s Pharmacy Yass were under the impression that by May 2021, the pharmacy would be administering the AstraZeneca vaccine, based on the idea that from phase 2a/2b pharmacies across NSW would be invited to participate.

For the past few months Mr Douglass and his staff received a number of enquiries by customers asking about the vaccination process, availabilities, and just general confusion about how and where they should go about getting the vaccine.

When asked why now is the time for rural NSW pharmacies to become an administration point for the “slow” national vaccination rollout project, Mr Douglas boiled it down to accessibility.

“Accessibility in rural towns is such a key part of having the need for community pharmacies to be that administration point,” he noted.

“For a lot of people, they don’t want to drive to Canberra, Goulburn, or large vaccination centres. They much rather get served by a local community that, they already have relationships with and trust.

“A lot of people too don’t have the ability to plan weeks out in advance because of their work schedule or home life. That’s how pharmacies can help with that in terms of immediacy.”

As at the end of June, only around three per cent of the Australian population had been fully vaccinated since the rollout began in February.

With the initial projection by the Federal Government for all Australians to be fully vaccinated by October, this is equivalent to another 25 more million people needed to be vaccinated within three months.

In light of Sydney’s recent Covid-19 outbreak which stands at 309 active locally acquired cases as of yesterday, the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia said having 22 community pharmacies is a start, but simply not enough.

“In the wake of Sydney’s most recent lockdown, some NSW pharmacists will finally be able to help protect their communities by vaccinating against this deadly disease,” PSA NSW Branch President Chelsea Felkai said in a media release.

“It still misses the mark, especially during a time where Sydney is subjected to the longest lockdown we have seen in a year. Pharmacies should be administering all available vaccines in order to reach a greater proportion of the population.

President Felkai added that with no plans for the expansion of the “pilot” program, there has been too many excuses provided by the state government and for other pharmacies to not being included in the rollout to date – difficulties in administration, cold chain, supply issues.

According to the Australian Journal of Pharmacy, the 22 designated community pharmacies are located where access to a GP or vaccine clinic is more limited due to geography.

Gulgong, Narromine, Walcha, Dungog, Dunedoo and Merriwa were mentioned as such.

Back home at Miller’s Pharmacy Yass, Pharmacy Manager Grant Douglas said his team is ready and equipped to be an administration point whenever given the opportunity.

“Our four pharmacists who do a bulk of the hours at the shop, are all trained immunisers,” he highlighted.

“There is an additional training module for them to complete for the Covid vaccine, but after that we’d be ready to go very quickly, such as a matter of days.”

The Yass-based pharmacy is also equipped with a number of vaccine fridges for the AstraZeneca vaccine if in the future it can is announced to be administered from Miller’s Pharmacy.

Christopher Tan