Pharmacies to join vaccine effort

Pharmacists Peter Apostolopoulos and Erin Heer. (Ivan Kemp) 245113_02

By Luke Voogt

Geelong pharmacists will begin vaccinating locals against COVID-19 next month, with the move expected to increase local immunisations by several hundred each day.

Highton pharmacist Erin Heer was one of many who this week received notice that they would begin receiving supplies of the AstraZenca vaccine.

“We’re expecting stock sometime in the next few weeks,” she said.

Ms Heer said her pharmacy could vaccinate up to 50 or 60 people per day, based on influenza injections in 2020.

“We did nearly 1000 flu vaccines last year. That’s more than usual but we coped with that influx.

“We’re accessible. GP clinics are busy with regular patients and all that preventative medicine – they’re playing catch up [following lockdowns].”

The development follows months of waiting for pharmacists across Geelong who applied to administer the vaccine in February and were assessed as “suitable”, like Glenn Bennett-Hullin.

“It’s been a very frustrating process for us because we just want to step up and help,” the Hamlyn Heights pharmacist said.

“The impression from everybody was that pharmacies were going to come online by June.”

Mr Bennett-Hullin reckoned his pharmacy could also vaccinate about 50 people a day against COVID-19 once supplies arrive.

“We’ve been ready and waiting since March,” he said.

“It’s a relief that we’ll be able to help our customers who have been approaching us daily since back in March.

“I just got an email [on Tuesday] asking if we are still interested in providing vaccines, which we are. It makes sense to bring on extra vaccinators as soon as possible.”

According to The Pharmacy Guild of Australia, pharmacies will receive up to 300 vaccines each per week.

Barwon Health’s Norlane vaccine hub can inoculate up to 2400 people per day, with general practices also providing COVID-19 jabs.

A guild spokesperson said about two thirds of pharmacies nationwide had a vaccination capability.

With almost 100 pharmacies in Geelong and on the Surf Coast, adding two thirds of those to the rollout could increase vaccinations in region by several hundred each day, the spokesperson said.

The guild expects pharmacies to begin providing Moderna and Pfizer vaccines between late September and early October, when supplies become more plentiful in Australia.