With the arrival of June 1, 2021, Australia faces a second winter in the cold shadow of the COVID-19 pandemic. There are plenty of reasons to feel more optimistic about the colder months ahead, even as the newly literate variants are wreaking havoc with the proven 2020 approaches to containment.
Following the federal government’s strategic change in May, the deployment of the COVID-19 vaccine in Australia is gaining momentum and, as they have been since phase 1a, pharmacists and hospital technicians find themselves at the center of the largest initiative Health Center in Australian History.
This is not a figurative notion: in the vast expanses of civic spaces normally used for exhibitions and indoor sports, the hospital pharmacy often directs the establishment and operation of the mass vaccination clinics run. by the state.
State and territory clinics use vaccines from Pfizer and AstraZeneca, requiring immense logistics skills as well as unmatched, specialized drug management expertise.
Separated from hospitals and their physical resources, hospital pharmacists must take everything into account: drug safety, maintaining the supply of the cold chain, aseptic reconstitution, emergency power, supply of equipment , workforce and workflow optimization.
In many cases, hospital pharmacists take charge of vaccine preparation rather than letting vaccinators do it at the time of administration, thus maximizing the workforce of vaccinators and helping to ensure that demand for vaccines. vaccination is satisfied.
At the start of winter 2021, the reporting of other milestones shows the impact of the constant increase in production in these clinics – up to 60,000 doses per week in some large centers: two million doses administered in state and territory-run clinics, contributing five million doses administered in total. While this is paltry compared to the original goals, the momentum is clear. The first million doses were delivered to clinics across the state and territory in 90 days, while the second million took less than 30 days.
Winter sees another blow to the arm as the campaign for the second dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine begins, leading to a sharp rise in the percentage of Australians fully vaccinated.
Of course, there is a long way to go.
The deployment of the COVID-19 vaccine is incredibly complex in terms of scale and scope, and it is essential that government and healthcare professionals continue to make strategic changes in response to new safety data.
The revised national approach from April – in which the AstraZeneca vaccine is offered to Australians aged 50 and over in public clinics and respiratory clinics, while Pfizer vaccines remain a priority for Australians under 50 in phases 1a and 1b until supplies increase in the second half of the year – means the full and complementary strengths of Australia’s acute and primary health care sectors will not be used in symbiosis before a few months to come.
Phase 2a began in May, which saw all Australians over the age of 50 eligible for a vaccine, and by early June, the campaign for the second dose of AstraZeneca’s vaccine had started, resulting in a significant increase in rates of Australians fully vaccinated in the following weeks.
At the same time, several jurisdictions, including New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland and the Australian Capital Territory, have moved ahead of the national deployment plan and allowed Australians aged 40 to 49 to be eligible – for now, this cohort will be vaccinated exclusively in state and territory clinics, as the only facility providing Pfizer vaccine. South Australians between the ages of 16 and 49 living in non-metropolitan areas can also receive the Pfizer vaccine at state-run clinics.
As the deployment in community pharmacies is delayed until September 2021, hospital pharmacists are currently carrying the flag of the profession in this vital program. The Society of Hospital Pharmacists of Australia (SHPA) continues to support our members as they work with their hospital colleagues to develop state government vaccination centers in strategic and high impact locations.
When winter gives way to spring, the recalibrated strategy will truly exploit the responsiveness of all pharmacists to the needs of the populations they serve, wherever they live.
It’s too early to predict next summer, but we can take comfort in the fact that we have the science – and the momentum – on our side.