Australians will be able to get their coronavirus vaccine from their local pharmacists in the next couple of months, Health Minister Greg Hunt revealed on Sunday.
Community pharmacists will be invited to register their interests on Monday to take part in the distribution of the vital jab, as they do with other vaccines such as the flu.
“They are experienced, they are trained in dispensing medicines, and they would be participating from Phase 2A onwards,” Mr Hunt told reporters.
“That means more points of presence for Australians in terms of where they can receive their COVID-19 vaccine.”
The health minister said authorities are on track to begin the rollout of the free COVID-19 vaccinations in February and complete the jabs in October, insisting recent reporting of disagreements over access to jabs from the European Union won’t slow down the rollout.
“I have spoken directly with the Australian country heads of Pfizer and the EU,” Mr Hunt said.
“We have our diplomats that are working with the World Health Organisation and the European Union through the commission. The advice that we have from all three sources at this stage is that our vaccine supplier and guidance remains on track.”
“But we will continue to engage with the EU on a daily basis and at this point in time we are in the very fortunate position of having guidance that our international suppliers, Pfizer commencing with approximately 80,000 doses per week in late February, AstraZeneca with approximately 1.2 million doses for March.”
Pharmacists across the country are well-positioned to speed up the process of the vaccine rollout, Pharmacy Guild of Australia president George Tambassis said.
“With a network of some 5800 pharmacies across Australia, appropriately trained pharmacists are ideally placed to provide the opportunities and access for Australians to receive a COVID-19 vaccination,” he said.
“Our members are committed to helping protect communities in all areas of the country and, as has been shown during all phases of this pandemic, will continue to go above and beyond for their patients.”
Mr Hunt said there had been no new cases of community transmission in Australia and there are zero COVID-19 patients in intensive critical units.
“Very importantly, we’ve seen the number in hospitals drop, which is a leading indicator of potential serious illness, from 34 Australians less than two weeks ago to 14 Australians in hospital today,” he said.