Pharmacists given green light to offer free vaccines
People will be able to get their COVID-19 jabs for free at their local pharmacy as the federal government expands the rollout to ensure maximum community take-up of the vaccine.
Pharmacies will be paid to administer the AstraZeneca COVID-19 jabs under the $200 million plus program, which will form phase two and three of the rollout starting around May.
At the same time, The Sunday Telegraph can reveal exclusively the Prime Minister Scott Morrison will use his National Press Club address on Monday to unveil details of "billions" of extra dollars to be spent on the rollout.
It is understood the extra spending will be on freight and logistics to enable the vaccine to be transported across Australia by road and possibly air in one of the largest logistic operations ever conducted in Australia
While doctors have warned against allowing pharmacies to become vaccine administering sites, the government will require those wanting to participate to meet strict safety standards informed by the expert medical advice from the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI).
Under the plan, metropolitan community pharmacies will be paid up to $42 to vaccinate an Australian - $16.00 for each of the two required doses as well as an additional $10 given at the time of the second vaccination.
In regional, rural and remote areas, pharmacies will be paid up to $48, including $19.00 per vaccination along with the extra $10 loading. The vaccines will be given to pharmacies at no cost.
Health Minister Greg Hunt said pharmacies wanting to participate in the voluntary program would have to demonstrate that they meet the highest safety standards while also having the capacity and capability to deliver COVID-19 vaccines. Pharmacies would also need to ensure that they would be able to continue to provide their regular important services to their local communities, he said.
"Utilising the existing network of thousands of community pharmacies will ensure the general population have broader access to COVID-19 vaccinations, provide choice in where the community receive a vaccine and address barriers to access some parts of rural and regional Australia," Mr Hunt said.
Pharmacy Guild of Australia national president George Tambassis said the network of 5800 pharmacies across Australia would provide better access to the vaccine for more people.
Health professionals involved in the vaccination program will have to undertake specialised training which is expected to be rolled out from early next month.
Mr Morrison said the investment was about giving people as many ways as possible to get their jabs at the most convenient locations.
An expression of interest (EOI) process will begin February 1 for pharmacies around Australia to participate in the Community Pharmacy COVID‑19 Vaccination Progra.
The inclusion of pharmacies as administering sites along with GP clinics is designed to enable the vaccine to be rolled out to the entire population by October.
Originally published as Pharmacists given green light to offer free vaccines