No doubt it has been a frantic July for you as 18-to-34 year-olds have been given the opportunity to avail of Covid-19 vaccines in their community pharmacies, should they wish to do so. However, it would appear that the manner in which this service extension was implemented left a lot to be desired. If you’re a pharmacist, that is.

It’s apparent that there was a lack of advance notice in the 18-to-34 change, and it would also appear that some pharmacists found out about the change in the scope of their vaccination obligations at the same time as the general public. There had been rumours among pharmacists regarding a change to the age bracket, but you can’t prepare based on a rumour. At best, all it does is create more uncertainty.

I wonder how much time you have spent on the phone with 18-to-34 year-olds in a rush to get their jabs. I know of one pharmacy that received in excess of 500 phone calls on the day of the announcement. No doubt the tsunami of phone enquiries was particularly bothersome to those pharmacies that opted not to provide the vaccination service.

Then there’s the whole ‘supply and demand’ aspect. One rural pharmacist told me that he had 150 vaccines in stock at the time of the announcement, and three days later, the waiting list had hit the 1,000 mark, which made the waiting list itself somewhat redundant. The Roy Keane line of “fail to prepare, prepare to fail” would be misplaced in this instance. In order to be able to prepare, one would first need to know what to prepare for.

I would suppose that by the time you are reading this, the dust will have settled and you will be well on top of the initial chaos. But you have to ask, would it have really been so difficult to give pharmacists the notice they required to get ready for the change? Or were pharmacists simply an afterthought in the whole process, taking a back seat to the ‘optics’ of the situation?

Do send me a letter, anonymised if you wish, outlining your experiences in rolling-out the vaccinations for 18-to-34 year-olds to the email address above.

‘Vaccination’ has been the buzzword for a while now, not least in the context of pharmacies. The ‘toothpaste is out of the tube’ now and it’s inevitable, and welcome, that pharmacists will be given more responsibilities in the area of vaccination. With better organisation and with pharmacists being properly resourced, one would hope.
Just before this issue went to print, the International Pharmaceutical Federation (FIP) announced that it has produced a handbook that illustrates how pharmacists can contribute to expanding vaccination coverage, including storage, record-keeping, appointments and administration. The FIP also argues for a greater role for pharmacists in vaccine advocacy, which would seem to make perfect sense.

However, it also notes that at the moment, not all pharmacists in certain jurisdictions have access to vaccination records. Irish pharmacists will be used to working ‘in the dark’ somewhat — if pharmacists had protected access to patients’ full medical records, there would be better patient safety and continuity of care. But that’s a discussion for another day.

In the meantime, if you would like to access the handbook, it’s available at https://www.fip.org/file/5009.
Happy jabbing!

Pat Kelly, Editor
Pat Kelly, Editor

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Editor, Irish Pharmacist, GreenCross Publishing Ltd,
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