NEWS that an old Bunnings Warehouse will be converted into a mass vaccination centre at Belmont over the next six weeks has baffled Hunter pharmacists who say they could roll out the COVID-19 vaccine as early as tomorrow if given the opportunity.
Chelsea Felkai, the Newcastle-based Pharmaceutical Society of Australia NSW branch president, said community pharmacies already had the infrastructure in place to deliver the COVID-19 vaccine, so it made "more sense" to use them before spending money on big vaccination centres.
"Why are we throwing money into these huge facilities when pharmacists are ready to go and are trained to do it?," Mrs Felkai said. "We could roll it out tomorrow in community pharmacy."
Mrs Felkai said they were working on a proposal to demonstrate how pharmacies could help NSW Health target people in regional and rural areas where there were few, if any, health services offering the COVID-19 vaccine.
"We are building a whole new infrastructure for the rollout of the vaccine and not utilising the existing infrastructure," she said. "We have cold chain infrastructure that we already use.
"On a daily basis we are getting vaccines and medicines delivered into the pharmacy fridge, and it just blows my mind that that is all ignored.
"You have pharmacies in every suburb here. It makes sense to make it as easy as possible for the population to come in and get a vaccination."
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Mrs Felkai said pharmacies were initially flagged to be involved in the vaccine rollout, but when there were supply issues, it "went quiet".
"They didn't have enough of the vaccine to warrant expanding it then - because a couple of months ago, GPs were only getting about 50 doses a week to their surgeries, but that has since risen to about 150," she said.
"Now that there is enough to make it a viable service, it's time to think about expansion into primary care too. They obviously have enough vaccine now because they are building these massive hubs."
A NSW Health spokesperson said that, in partnership with the Commonwealth government, they were working closely with the Pharmacy Guild and the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia to determine potential pilot areas that may be suitable for delivery of the COVID-19 vaccines by community pharmacists.
All adults aged 40-49 are now eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine, as well as all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 16-to-49, NDIS participants aged years 16 and over, and carers of NDIS participants of any age.
Book in via the Vaccine Eligibility Checker.
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