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Keeping the wolf from the door

19 Mar 2014

With the weather cooling down, it won’t be long until the waiting room is full of patients suffering from influenza – a misery that could largely be avoided with one jab.

The 2014 Seasonal Influenza Vaccination Program gets underway on 15 March 2014. Now is the time for us to assert ourselves in our preventative health role, as family doctors, and as patients’ vaccination provider of choice. We need to be proactive and discuss with every patient, but particularly those most vulnerable, the availability and benefits of the ‘flu shot’. Not only will we be providing patients with the opportunity and information to protect themselves from sickness, we might also be keeping the wolf from the door.

Increasingly we are seeing our role as primary vaccination providers being encroached upon by those seeking to expand their scopes of practice and enhance their access to government funding. With the Queensland Pharmacist Immunisation Pilot going ahead, there is a real chance that it won’t be long for Australia follows New Zealand’s lead and introduces pharmacist vaccinators.

I believe this poses a serious threat to patients’ continuity of care, jeopardises the currency of their medical record and puts patient safety at risk. This increasing philosophy permeating through government when it comes to health care of ‘close enough is good enough’ is not good enough in my opinion. Something as important as vaccinations should be performed by appropriately trained and accredited health professionals in an appropriate location.

The AMA, for one, has a number of concerns with the trial, which is why it has called for it to be ceased. As a rule, pharmacists are not set up to provide clinical services. There is no privacy for patients in a pharmacy. Administering injections must be part of pharmacists’ core training if they want to expand their scope of practice. Short add on courses for the purpose of the trial don’t cut it in my view. Having the skills to recognise and manage anaphylaxis is a must.

Where vaccinations occur outside of general practice, they must be subject to the same proficiency and quality requirements as those provided in a general practice.

It remains up to us, though, to ensure that our patients value the service and care they receive from their family doctor and make us their vaccine provider of choice.  

How can we do this? By making sure we know which patients are eligible for the seasonal influenza vaccine under the National Immunisation Program. By ensuring we are fully across any restrictions on vaccine use, ie no Fluvax® for children under five. By being up to date on the composition of the 2014 trivalent influenza. By being aware of and discussing with parents the risks of co-administration of trivalent influenza and Prevenar 13® vaccines. By discussing with patients their vaccination needs.

For information on the Immunise Australia Progam and for information on administration of the 2014 trivalent seasonal influenza vaccines, visit

Published: 19 Mar 2014