Pharmacists ought to play role in COVID-19 vaccine rollout, association says
'People already trust us to do this,' says association president Janice Audeau
The professional association representing pharmacists in Newfoundland and Labrador says its members can play a key role in ensuring COVID-19 vaccines are delivered efficiently later this year.
Janice Audeau, president of the Pharmacists' Association of Newfoundland and Labrador and a pharmacist in Corner Brook, said the association has raised the issue with the provincial government.
"We already do a lot of vaccinations in communities anyway, and we have over 700 pharmacists in the province," Audeau told The St. John's Morning Show on Tuesday.
"We're in all kinds of communities where there may not be a lot of resources, so we're in a great position to be able to get vaccine to as many people as possible."
Although pharmacies don't have the ultra-low freezers necessary to store the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, Audeau said pharmacies are already built to be able to refrigerate vaccines as well as store enough doses for a secondary booster shot if necessary.
She said pharmacy associations across Canada are also speaking with provincial governments to help administer vaccines, so the province likely wouldn't be the first in the country to allow the change.
Audeau says allowing pharmacists to administer the COVID-19 vaccine could help get doses into more arms across the province, similar to the influenza vaccine in 2020.
"We've just had our first run with a universal influenza vaccination program and the numbers that we've seen recently show that about 40 per cent of all of the flu shots that were given in the province were given in pharmacies or by pharmacists," she said.
"So people already trust us to do this, and government is aware of that.… Because that relationship is in place, there's a comfort level that people have," she added.
"It's not always just about the medication that they're picking up that day."
With commitment, comes support
If the provincial government were to allow pharmacists to administer the COVID-19 vaccine, Audeau said, it would also need to come with specific support such as protective equipment that was put in place during flu vaccinations.
She also hopes compensation will be on the table, as pharmacists will likely have to put more into the vaccination process working with a new vaccine.
"What we've learned from the influenza process is that there's a lot of extra screening that goes in place. There's a lot of cleaning that goes on in between each person," Audeau said.
"This time it's a new vaccine. I anticipate, although there's nothing that says this for sure, but we're going to have to have people stay under observation for a little bit longer. So the process of vaccination is going to [take] longer. Hopefully we'll be reasonably compensated for our time and our effort."
With files from The St. John's Morning Show