A state government decision allowing pharmacists to administer flu vaccinations to children as young as 10 has been labelled as "baffling" by the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners.
Under the government's Winter Demand Management Plan 2019, authorised Tasmanian pharmacists will be able to administer flu vaccines to people aged 10 and older, in a first for Australia.
Previously, pharmacists were only authorised to vaccinate people aged 18 and over.
However, RACGP president Dr Harry Nespolon said the decision had no grounds, could put young patients at risk and further fragment their healthcare.
"It's quite simple, pharmacists don't have the medical training required to safely deliver vaccinations and respond to associated risks, such as anaphylaxes," Dr Nespolon said.
"This appears to be another attempt by the pharmacy sector to put financial gains over quality patient care and safety.
"The Tasmanian government should be further supporting patients to see their GP, rather than fragmenting their healthcare."
There have been 801 reported cases of influenza this year, compared to 452 for the whole of 2018.
Health Minister Michael Ferguson said the government had taken strong action to ensure flu vaccinations were as accessible as possible, to more people.
"Tasmanians can be confident that the winter plan has been developed with expert doctors' public health advice and receiving a flu vaccination in a pharmacy is completely safe," he said.
"All authorised pharmacist immunisers are highly trained professionals and have the permission of the Director of Public Health Dr Mark Veitch, who is a specialist doctor in his field.
"This is the same advice that allowed us to vaccinate more than 90,000 young people, including children over the age of 10 by pharmacists."
Dr Nespolon has called on the state government to reconsider the plan "before any patient suffers the potential negative effects of this decision".
The comments echo those made by the Australian Medical Association, who also criticised the government over a lack of consultation.
Tasmania branch vice president Dr John Davis said GPs were the best and safest option for people to receive their flu vaccination and that the AMA did not support pharmacists administering flu vaccines.
However, Pharmacy Guild of Australia Tasmania branch president John Dowling said the criticisms were a "blatant turf war".
"The whole thing is about access and convenience for patients," he said.
"Pharmacies are obviously very accessible and they [patients] can just stroll in usually, without an appointment, and have a vaccine.
"A lot of people who qualify for the free vaccine at the GP, still come to us because it is hard to get into the GP and they are often not bulk-billed, so they have to pay a fee anyway."
Mr Ferguson said the government's plan was a "safe and commonsense" approach to help more families get protected from flu, who might not have been getting vaccinated at all.
"GP appointments can be expensive when vaccinating multiple family members and waiting times can also be challenging, even when appointments are booked days in advance," he said.