The International Pharmaceutical Federation published findings from its global study on the role played by pharmacists in immunisation worldwide, on August 29, 2016.

The report, An overview of current pharmacy impact on immunisation, encapsulates findings from the Federation’s 137 member bodies and their respective immunisation practices spanning 45 countries and territories, including Australia, involving a total population of 940 million.

In the surveyed population, more than 193,000 community pharmacies were identified as either currently providing, or able to potentially provide, vaccination services. Furthermore, the research cited that pharmacist-administered vaccination services have the potential to reach 655 million people worldwide.

The report cited an estimated “10 million lives per year could be saved by increasing access to medicines and vaccinations. Community pharmacists are therefore, in a strong position to provide a major contribution to public health, due to their accessibility, distribution and available medicines expertise.

“We further estimate that currently, pharmacist-administered vaccination services have the potential to reach a total global population of 655 million. These estimates are based on our sample of 45 countries and territories; the potential in health gain to have pharmacy-led outreach to global populations is clear, and this report suggests that community-based pharmacies are safe and high quality vaccination centres,” the report explained.

Yet, despite community pharmacy’s ease of accessibility, only 13 of the 45 surveyed nations allow pharmacists to administer vaccinations, severely inhibiting many individuals access to simple, yet life-saving vaccinations.

Speaking with the Australian Journal of Pharmacy, study co-author, Dr Helena Rosado from UCL School of Pharmacy, London, England, said pharmacists should be considered a first port-of-call when it comes to vaccination.

“The World Health Organization estimates that vaccination saves between two-and- three million lives each year.

“The accessibility and distribution of community pharmacies make them a first point of contact for patients, providing an excellent opportunity to address low immunisation coverage,” said Dr Rosado.

In an Australian-specific case study, the report authors cited how in late 2013, the Pharmacy Board of Australia, which develops standards, codes and guidelines for the Australian pharmacy profession, confirmed that administration of vaccines was within a pharmacist’s scope of practice.

In 2014, Australian pharmacy-based immunisation services commenced with the Queensland Pharmacist Pilot (QPIP). The pilot provided immunisation services for more than 35,000 adults over a two-year period. Western Australia (WA) was the first jurisdiction to pass legislation enabling pharmacists to administer the influenza vaccine, followed by South Australia (SA) and New South Wales (NSW) in 2015.

“Most recently, in 2016, amendments were made to the Poisons Regulations to allow appropriately trained pharmacists to provide immunisation against influenza in adults over the age of 18 in Tasmania (TAS), Australian Capital Territory (ACT) and Victoria (VIC). In addition, approved program by 2017,” the study authors wrote.

In a subsequent news announcement released by The Pharmacy Guild of Australia on August 29, 2016, National Acting President, Tim Logan, welcomed the report, citing it confirmed the wisdom of Australia’s regulatory authorities in working to vaccinate Australians.

“This report confirms the wisdom of Australian regulatory authorities moving to allow pharmacists to be trained to administer vaccinations across Australia, adding significantly to our levels of immunity, and improving the health prospects of tens of thousands of Australians who might not otherwise have been vaccinated,” said Mr Logan.

Read the full report here.