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Convenience drives popularity of pharmacy vaccines

Media release

Curtin University researchers have evaluated the uptake of pharmacist-administered flu vaccinations in Western Australia, finding them not only to be a safe option for the public, but also popular due to their accessibility.

Lead researcher Dr Laetitia Hattingh, from Curtin’s School of Pharmacy, said the evaluation showed no major adverse effects among the 15,621 influenza vaccinations administered by immuniser pharmacists at 76 WA community pharmacies between March and October 2015.

“This initial evaluation of WA pharmacist vaccination services showed that vaccine delivery was safe, with less than one per cent of consumers experiencing minor reactions, which were appropriately managed,” Dr Hattingh said.

“Of these vaccine recipients, between 12 and 17 per cent were eligible to receive a free influenza vaccination under the National Immunisation Program (NIP) but chose to pay for it at a pharmacy.

“We also found a high percentage of vaccinations were delivered in rural and regional areas, indicating these services made it easier for rural and remote consumers to access them.”

Dr Hattingh said pharmacist vaccination services had the potential to increase vaccine uptake while reducing the burden on the Australian health system, especially GP waiting times.

“Pharmacists reported significant professional satisfaction in providing the service and all participating pharmacies intended to continue providing influenza vaccinations in 2016,” Dr Hattingh said.

“Pharmacists were perceived as convenient, easily accessible and credible health professionals who were well placed to provide vaccination services, especially for people not covered under the NIP, as they’re usually the ones that don’t hold appointments with GPs because they are often quite time poor.

“Greater numbers of immunisation rates could be achieved with an increased number of trained pharmacists, appropriate funding and a concerted advertising program to raise community awareness.”

Dr Hattingh said this was the first study to comprehensively evaluate the implementation of pharmacist immunisation services in WA and the uptake of services.

“Pharmacists have been providing vaccination services over the past decade in countries such as the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Portugal and New Zealand,” Dr Hattingh said.

“Accessibility is one of the major benefits of pharmacist immunisations, and these programs have been shown to lead to increased vaccination rates, low adverse effects and high consumer satisfaction.

“In Australia, there is also scope to expand pharmacist vaccination services to other vaccines and younger children; however, government funding to pharmacists needs to be considered.”

The evaluation was conducted in collaboration with The University of Western Australia and was supported by funding from the WA Department of Health.

The full research paper, Evaluation of the first pharmacist-administered vaccinations in Western Australia: a mixed-methods study, was published in BMJ Open, and can be found at: http://bmjopen.bmj.com/content/6/9/e011948.full?sid=b8ecced0-9770-408a-b784-1c8e11824cd6