A lack of clarity surrounding the roll-out of COVID-19 vaccines to regional pharmacies is "frustrating", Orange pharmacist Kate Gray says, after the state government included just 22 in an AstraZeneca pilot program to begin this month.
Pharmacies in communities limited access to GPs or vaccine clinics - like Narromine and Dunedoo - were prioritised for the pilot program and they will begin administering AstraZeneca jabs for people aged 60 and over from mid-July.
It's understandable, Ms Gray said, but she has been left somewhat bemused by the "slow" roll-out to pharmacies after 400 in regional and rural areas were deemed suitable to administer vaccinations back in February.
It is a bit frustrating because we were under the impression we had a start date of July 1.Kate Gray
"The approved pharmacies are in areas that don't have the same access to vaccines, there are clinics here in Orange and GPs administering them as well, so I understand that aspect," Ms Gray, from Peter Smith TerryWhite Chemmart, said.
"But the roll-out has been slow and it is a bit frustrating because we, and I think the other pharmacies that were pre-approved too, were under the impression we had a start date of July 1.
"After we expressed out interest (in January) we invested a lot into getting ready for that and making sure we had the correct storage fridges and individual vaccination rooms.
Supply shortages have been blamed vaccine roll-outs being stalled, not just in NSW but nation-wide, and Ms Gray acknowledged that factor as well, admitting "it's not a simple process" but also lamenting the delays.
Particularly given many pharmacies have long-been equipped to provide influenza vaccines including the necessary expertise to order and monitor cold-chain medications, with the AstraZeneca vaccine manageable in those terms.
At the very least, Ms Gray said, Peter Smith TerryWhite Chemmart is ready to being administering AstraZeneca jabs when or if the time comes they are approved to do so.
"We are ready, yes, although I do completely understand people being concerned with the risk factors," she said, referring to hesitancy regarding AstraZeneca's rare side-effects.
"But it's protective, it's helping the community. Pharmacists are administering influenza vaccinations and, whoever comes in for them, we are counselling those people to then consider the COVID-19 vaccine if, or when they are eligible.
"Of course we're advising them to wait the appropriate time in between the influenza and COVID-19 vaccines."
Ms Gray did, however, note a marked decline in the number of people booking in for influenza vaccines this year, urging the community to receive the jab as soon as possible.
"We have noticed it's dropped off this year, we're not sure why, but it's something that helps protect the community and the last thing we need right now is an influenza outbreak as well."
Our journalists work hard to provide local, up-to-date news to the community. This is how you can continue to access our trusted content:
HAVE YOUR SAY
- Send us a letter to the editor using the form below ...