As the aging demographic of medical practitioners continues to drive rethinking of effective ways to provide healthcare, pharmacists are preparing to trial a new service – administering vaccines.

The Pharmaceutical Society of Australia and the Pharmacy Guild of Australia (PGA) are launching a research pilot program, where the Queensland community will be offered pharmacist administered influenza vaccination in line with the start of the 2014 influenza season.

The National Immunisation Program currently offers free influenza vaccination to Australians aged 65 years and over, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders aged 15 years or over
and all pregnant women. These people should still access free vaccination through traditional avenues, while the pilot program will target those people who are not eligible.

The Queensland University of Technology and James Cook University are supporting the project to ensure a robust study design, and effective evaluation of the role of pharmacists in immunisation services.

While administering vaccines is an extension to the current services offered by pharmacists, the Pharmacy Board of Australia consider it to be a general, rather than advanced, level of practice and the competencies required for pharmacists to administer vaccines have been mapped to those of nurse immunisers.

Queensland Branch President of the PGA, Tim Logan, said “community pharmacies are the most accessible healthcare professionals and so we are a natural destination for the delivery of vital immunisation services.”

Extending this service to whooping cough could stem the current epidemic in Australia, by potentially increasing vaccination rates to the 94% threshold needed to achieve herd immunity, through improved community access to professional advice and convenient administration.