Confusion over pharmacies’ flu shots

3 minute read

Pharmacies are providing flu shots to customers, weeks before the vaccine becomes available to patients at GP clinics

Pharmacies have already begun providing 2017 quadrivalent vaccine flu shots to customers, weeks before the vaccine becomes available to patients at GP clinics.

The large, independent discount chain, Chemist Warehouse, kicked off its sales campaign at some outlets on March 13, pushing flu vaccinations for just $10.99, with TV advertising showing a virus-free man breaking every rule of personal hygiene in an office full of sick colleagues.

By coincidence, an online journal erroneously reported the same day that some chemists were getting off to an early start by selling leftover influenza vaccine stock from 2016.

It attributed the information to Professor Robert Booy, head of clinical research at the National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance, who said he was surprised by the misunderstanding after he had given a detailed interview to the journal.

“I’ve had all these pharmacists complaining,” he told The Medical Republic. 

Professor Booy, who is a director of the Immunisation Coalition, said pharmacy vaccinations against influenza were a good idea for healthy adults, particularly those likely to be in contact with at-risk people.

“I think it works very well for healthy people who need an annual jab in order to protect themselves, their workmates … and people with chronic disease in their families.”

But for chronically ill patients, immunisation should be recorded, Professor Booy said.

“If a pharmacist is immunising a patient with a chronic heart condition, for example, I think they need to make sure that the GP knows what they have done.” A reporting requirement to a patient’s family doctor would also help avoid over-servicing, he said.

GPs are expected to receive stocks of the new vaccine in April under a national program that guarantees free immunisation for at-risk patients, including elderly patients, indigenous patients and women who are pregnant.

Like last year’s vaccine, the 2017 influenza vaccine contains two A and two B strains:

• A (H1N1): an A/Michigan/45/2015 (H1N1)pdm09 – like virus

• A (H3N2): an A/Hong Kong/4801/2014 (H3N2) – like virus

• B: a B/Phuket/3073/2013 – like virus

• B: a B/Brisbane/60/2008 – like virus

The journal has published an apology and a correction for the erroneous report.

“All 2016 stock had a use-by date which prevented it being used this year, and it is likely that most leftover 2016 stock has been destroyed,”
it said.

More pharmacies are expected to launch their influenza vaccine campaigns this week.

Professor Booy said a flu vaccine was now being supplied to the US market targeted at elderly people, containing four times the usual dose.

“It has been shown to provide higher levels of protection against influenza and used quite widely over the last two years for people over the age of 65 who are at risk.

“They get better protection,” Professor Booy said.

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