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My hat-trick editorship

By June Shannon - 01st Apr 2024

June Shannon relives her three years as editor and pays homage to the dedicated work of pharmacy professionals

 I worked with Irish Pharmacist as a reporter and editor from 2008 to 2011 and thoroughly enjoyed my three years with the title.

I have vivid memories of watching Barack Obama being sworn in as the first African-American US president on a cold January in 2009 in the basement offices, which at the time were located on Harrington Street in Dublin.

The publication had recently been acquired by new company GreenCross Publishing and it was an honour to be asked to take on the role of editor. Maura Henderson and Graham Cooke were the owners of GreenCross, both of whom I had come to know and greatly admire over my time in Irish healthcare journalism.

While my three years as editor of Irish Pharmacist was a relatively short period in the publication’s long 25-year history, it was clear that its audience was made up of engaged, passionate, and committed pharmacy professionals both at hospital and community level.


Pharmacists played
a key role in Ireland during the pandemic and deserve to be recognised among the many healthcare heroes of the time

Irish pharmacy has come a long way in the past quarter of a century. In 2008 when I took over the reins of the publication, pharmacists were not yet providing some of the essential services that they do today such as vaccination and emergency contraception.

In fact, it would be another three years before pharmacists were permitted to supply and administer flu vaccinations to the public. But since 2011 they have been providing the flu vaccine to the community and this has greatly added to health professionals’ armamentarium against the flu.

The initiative started slowly with about 9,000 flu vaccines administered by pharmacists during that season. However, the uptake in community pharmacies continues to increase year on year as the public takes advantage of the convenience and benefits of getting the flu vaccine at their local pharmacy.

The strength of the pharmacy profession’s contribution to the fight against flu continues to increase, with more than 70 per cent of pharmacies participating in the 2022/23 flu vaccine season.

According to the Irish Pharmacy Union (IPU), during the 2022/23 season more than 1,344 community pharmacies signed up to offer an adult vaccination service, while a total of 1,214 outlets offered the nasal vaccine to children aged two to 17. In all, 29 per cent of all vaccines given to the public during the 2022/23 flu season were administered by community pharmacists.

Perhaps one of the most defining moments of the past 25 years – in Ireland and globally – was the Covid-19 crisis which dominated global affairs for more than two years.

Pharmacists played a key role in Ireland during the pandemic and deserve to be recognised among the many healthcare heroes of the time. Like other healthcare staff, pharmacists, in the community and within hospital settings, worked tirelessly in the fight against Covid.

Coupled with their ongoing provision of advice and support to their patients, community pharmacists also rolled up their sleeves – and those of the public – when they helped provide Covid-19 vaccines in June 2021; and by July 2022, in a little more than a year, Irish pharmacies had administered more than one million of them.

Frontline fighters

Pharmacists have proven to be essential in public health promotion and protection. They are on the frontline daily and have an important role to play in protecting public health. Given the recent frightening increase in measles across Europe and pharmacists’ proven expertise in vaccination programmes, I feel that the profession should also be permitted to administer the MMR vaccine. Just last month the IPU called for MMR catch-up vaccines to be made available in pharmacies.

According to Kathy Maher, pharmacist and chair of the IPU’s Pharmacy Contractor’s Committee: “The MMR provides the best way to minimise the risks of contracting or spreading measles. Recent data has shown that vaccination rates have fallen in recent years. Pharmacists are now experienced vaccinators and have been playing an important role in combatting flu and Covid for many years. It is time to add measles, through the MMR, to the list of vaccinations available in local pharmacies.

“The Covid pandemic demonstrated that pharmacists can play an important role in administering vaccines. Patients value the convenient locations and long opening hours of Irish pharmacies; this asset should be utilised in the new fight against measles.”

Similar to the administration of Covid vaccines, several additional innovations – which were brought about as a direct result of the pandemic – have thankfully continued to this day, such as e-prescribing and the ability of pharmacists to extend the period of validity of some prescriptions. All of these have been of huge benefit to patients.

The key role played by pharmacists for generations in local communities and hospitals, which was put into sharp focus during the pandemic, has shown that the public warmly welcomes and appreciates pharmacy-based healthcare services.

Indeed, public appetite for such services was borne out in the Pharmacy Index 2023, which found that 96 per cent of adults would welcome pharmacists being able to prescribe for minor ailments and 94 per cent were in favour of pharmacists being able to repeat certain prescriptions without having to visit a GP.

The 2023 survey, which was carried out by Behaviour & Attitudes and published by the IPU, also found that 98 per cent of people in Ireland stated that they valued the advice pharmacists provide.

The survey further revealed that more than three-quarters (77 per cent) of Irish adults believe that pharmacists compare very highly or highly with other healthcare professionals.


Pharmacists have proven to be essential in public health promotion and protection

As we look to the future and await the final recommendations of the expert taskforce to support the expansion of the role of pharmacists in Ireland, we can only look forward to the profession’s increasing involvement in patient care.

Over many years pharmacists have proven to be a central tenet of healthcare delivery in Ireland. For the past 25 years, Irish Pharmacist has played a central role in reporting on developments and advocating for the sector. Personally, it was an honour to play a very small role in that.

Congratulations Irish Pharmacist, here’s to the next 25 years.

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