Tasmanian pharmacists say they are still waiting for authorisation to administer COVID-19 vaccinations in community pharmacies, despite additional Commonwealth supplies of AstraZeneca expected in the state within the next 10 days.
Pharmacy Guild of Australia state branch president Helen O'Byrne said Tasmania was the only state or territory in the country where pharmacists were still not authorised, under the Tasmanian Immunisation Program Guidelines, to immunise against COVID-19 within community pharmacies.
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The guidelines, last updated in June this year, note that pharmacists are only approved to administer COVID vaccines in Tasmanian government vaccination clinics - not in community pharmacies.
Ms O'Byrne also said there had been no communication from the Health Department or state government about when changes to the necessary authorisation would occur.
Health Minister Jeremy Rockliff said the vaccine roll-out to pharmacies was part of the primary care plan, and was therefore being managed by the federal government.
However, with 31 Tasmanian pharmacies approved by the Commonwealth to administer vaccines, Ms O'Byrne said they were still waiting for the necessary legal authorisation from state authorities, to ensure compliance with Tasmanian Health Department guidelines.
"We are expecting our first pharmacies to have stock in the fridge within the next 10 days. Those 31 pharmacies should be able to start administering the AstraZenca vaccine from then," she said.
"We are, however, still waiting on the state [health] department to authorise pharmacists to vaccinate for COVID-19 in community pharmacy.
"So we are really sweating on this approval, that's sitting with the Tasmanian government. We are the only state or territory that hasn't provided that.
"It is possible we could get to the point where we have community pharmacies with vaccines in their fridges, and we are still waiting on that approval."
Last month Prime Minister Scott Morrison confirmed more pharmacies would be brought into the vaccine roll-out sooner in a bid to ramp up immunisation rates, with thousands expected to come on board nationally by mid-August.
This week Health Minister Greg Hunt also made assurances that pharmacists would be provided with the Moderna vaccine, when it becomes available.
In late June, Health Department secretary Kathrine Morgan-Wicks confirmed that the involvement of Tasmanian pharmacists in the vaccine roll-out - including timing and authorisation - was being worked through.
To date, Tasmania remains the only state in Australia - alongside the ACT - that hasn't started to roll-out vaccination services across select community pharmacy locations.
With a proven track record for assisting with state-wide immunisation programs for influenza and meningococcal, Ms O'Byrne said Tasmanian pharmacists were ready and able to assist with COVID-19 vaccinations - but they needed to be authorised.
"At the moment there is quite a significant wait to get a vaccine through many of the state-run clinics, and also many of the GPs," she said.
"Over 60s are only ever offered the AstraZeneca vaccine, and the Tasmanian Health Department isn't offering first dose AstraZeneca to anybody anymore. So it's all through primary health.
"So I think there is definitely the ability to offer people in the community their AstraZeneca vaccination.
"We've only got 50 per cent of our population done. If the Delta strain did arrive in Tasmania tomorrow, I am sure it will not be enough."
Mr Rockliff said the state government was pleased to see pharmacies join the Tasmanian roll-out, and was aware that up to 26 would come on board in August.
"I'm advised the first group of 11 will join on August 16, with the additional 15 later in the month," he said.
"Other pharmacies who have expressed interest, up to 105, are likely to commence in the coming weeks and months, but the precise timing and locations will be determined by the Australian government after consultation with the state.
"The first group of pharmacies to be approved by the Australian government are in Burnie, Devonport, Ulverstone, Latrobe, Legana, Riverside, Risdon Vale and Sorell."
Ms O'Byrne said the location of approved pharmacies were based on areas with some of the lowest uptake of the vaccine so far.
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