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Pharmacy immunisations: What you need to know

6 min read
19 Feb 2019

In a bid to make access to vaccinations easier for New South Wales residents and improve overall herd immunity in the state, authorised pharmacists are now allowed to administer a number of specified immunisations. This change has been in motion since 1 January 2019, thanks to alterations to state regulations.1

Herd immunity refers to how many people of a given community are immunised against different diseases. The more people who are immunised, the harder it is for the disease to spread.2

Previously, if you opted for a vaccination at a pharmacy, only a registered nurse could administer it, unless it was the influenza vaccination or flu shot, in which case trained pharmacists could perform the injection.3

Along with influenza (commonly known as the flu), New South Wales pharmacists can now administer vaccinations for diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis (whooping cough), measles, mumps and rubella.4

As part of these changes to New South Wales’ vaccine regulations, the age limit of eligible patients for pharmacy vaccinations was also lowered from 18 to 16.5

What are some benefits of pharmacists vaccinating NSW residents?

The NSW Government said making vaccines like whooping cough and influenza more readily available will benefit those in certain areas where GP access could be limited. 6

Whooping cough and influenza can be especially dangerous for those with weak immune systems, such as babies or the elderly.7 8 The state government also said these changes to vaccines will help those who have contact with newborn infants, like partners of pregnant women and grandparents.

October 2018 saw almost 800 people afflicted with whooping cough in New South Wales, which was the highest count in the previous two years.9 This preventable disease claims the lives of one in 200 babies less than six months old every year.10

Also in 2018, over 400 people a week in New South Wales visited hospital emergency departments with influenza or an influenza-like illness.11 Across Australia, there were 54,963 confirmed cases of influenza in the same year.12

a girl in a blue dress receives a vaccination

Do other Australian states and territories offer pharmacy vaccinations?

Throughout Australia, different states and territories have different rules and regulations for how vaccinations can be administered in a pharmacy.

In 2015, South Australia and Western Australia allowed trained pharmacists to deliver vaccines, while Australia’s other states and territories followed suit in 2016.13 Queensland, New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory allow interns to deliver vaccines under the supervision of a fully qualified pharmacist.14

How much do pharmacy vaccinations cost?

The cost of the vaccination will differ depending on which pharmacy you attend and what vaccination you’re receiving. Some diseases can be covered by the same vaccination and are bundled together.

Are pharmacy vaccinations subsidised?

Pharmacist-administered vaccinations will come at a cost to Australians, as they aren’t subsidised by the Australian Government’s National Immunisation Program (NIP). The NIP provides a series of government-funded vaccinations for free at various life stages, mostly throughout childhood.15

If you are eligible for a free vaccination and visit a pharmacy to receive it, you may still need to pay for a pharmacist to administer it, or you may need to visit your local GP to receive it.16 Eligible Victorians can get some vaccinations by a pharmacist for free,17 and in the ACT, pharmacists can provide DTP and influenza vaccinations without a prescription to those at least 18 years old – though you may still need to pay for the service.18

Will private health insurance cover the cost of pharmacy vaccinations?

Extras health insurance can provide a benefit towards the cost of some prescription medications, like a vaccine. Depending on which state you live in and your specific extras health insurance policy, you may be able to make a claim to your health fund for the price of the vaccine and other associated costs.19

Whether or not you can claim pharmacy-administered vaccines, however, depends on whether it’s included in your policy. As such, be sure to check your private health Policy Disclosure Statement (PDS) or contact your health fund to see what you might be able to claim.

Otherwise, private health insurance may subsidise the cost of vaccinations outside of the pharmacy, depending on your specific policy and the avenue you take to get immunised.

For instance, if a nurse at a private hospital administered your vaccine during your private hospital admission, private hospital cover may pay a benefit, depending on your policy’s PDS.

a nurse vaccinates a boy while his mother sits next to him

What about vaccinations at your local GP?

Not all vaccines are covered by the NIP, and while the immunisations can be administered by a GP (or in some instances, at a private hospital), you’ll need to pay for the cost of the vaccination, along with other fees that may be incurred.20

Some people are deemed at greater risk of complications from some diseases than others, however, and can receive the influenza vaccination for free from their GP, and, in some cases, other vaccinations as well. This group of people includes:

  • pregnant women
  • those with chronic illnesses or other health issues
  • nursing home residents21
  • those over and including the age of 65
  • people of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander descent.22

Sources
[1] Poisons and Therapeutic Goods Amendment (Supply by Pharmacists of Vaccines) Regulation 2018. The Hon Brad Hazzrd MP, Minister for Health, New South Wales Government. 2018.
[2] Community (herd) immunity. Department of Health, Australian Government. 2017.
[3] NSW pharmacist vaccination program. Department of Health, New South Wales Government. 2019.
[4] From January 2019, Trained NSW Pharmacists Will Be Able To Provide DTPA and MMR Vaccines, With The Age Limit Also Being Lowered To 16. Australian Pharmacy Professionals. 2018.
[5] Poisons and Therapeutic Goods Amendment (Supply by Pharmacists of Vaccines) Regulation 2018. The Hon Brad Hazzrd MP, Minister for Health, New South Wales Government. 2018.
[6] NSW pharmacist vaccination program. Department of Health, New South Wales Government. 2019.
[7] Whooping cough. Better Health Channel, Victoria State Government. 2018.
[8] Flu (influenza). Better Health Channel, Victoria State Government. 2018.
[9] Whooping Cough Alert. Department of Health, New South Wales Government. 2018.
[10] Whooping cough (pertussis). Department of Health, Australian Government. 2018.
[11] Influenza Monthly Epidemiology Report, NSW: November 2018. Department of Health, New South Wales Government. 2018.
[12] 2018 Influenza Statistics. Immunisation Coalition. 2018.
[13] Vaccination Services. The Pharmacy Guild of Australia. 2018.
[14] Making a point: Pharmacist immunisation in 2018. Joshua Hoey, Australian Pharmacist, Pharmaceutical Society of Australia. 2018.
[15] National Immunisation Program Schedule. Department of Health, Australian Government. 2018.
[16] Influenza vaccination by pharmacists. Department of Health, New South Wales Government. 2018.
[17] Who provides immunisations in Victoria. Better Health Channel, Victoria State Government. 2017.
[18] Vaccination Services. The Pharmacy Guild of Australia. 2018.
[19] What pharmacy benefits can I claim? AHM. 2019.
[20] Private vaccine prices at The Royal Children’s Hospital. Melbourne Vaccine Education Centre. 2018.
[21] Flu Vaccinations. Bupa. 2011.
[22] Seasonal Influenza Vaccinations 2018. Department of Health, New South Wales Government. 2018.

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Written by James McCay

James is a devoted husband, father, animal lover and history buff (particularly medieval history). He studied Creative and Professional Writing at QUT, and is often buried in a book. James also enjoys historical re-enactment, spending time with his dogs, and making furniture out of reclaimed wood. He hopes to make a positive difference for readers through his writing.

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