Kuala Lumpur, 16 February — The National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme should involve pharmacists and general practitioners (GPs) as immunisers to bolster the upcoming nationwide vaccination drive.
“The guidebook to the National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme gives an overview and appreciation of the tremendous scale and labour involved in this unprecedented effort to immunise the Malaysian population against COVID-19,” said Azrul Mohd Khalib, Chief Executive of the Galen Centre for Health & Social Policy commenting on today’s launch of the document by Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin. “We hope that the government will see this programme as an opportunity to mobilise and work with the private sector, specifically pharmacists and GPs, to be immunisers who are a vital part of the programme’s workforce.
“With the government targeting 126,000 people to be vaccinated per day, this should be an all-hands-on-deck approach. The government health system should not and cannot be expected to shoulder the burden alone, especially when it is dealing with the ongoing COVID-19 epidemic at the same time.”
“An efficient rollout to combat the pandemic involving pharmacists and GPs, will free up doctors and nurses for treatment, and draw on their existing capacity in patient care, health education and vaccination advocacy,” said Winnie Ong, a research officer and registered pharmacist at the Galen Centre who has worked in community pharmacies.
“Compared to front liners in Phase 1, who are attached to their work stations, reaching the target population distributed far and wide across the community in Phase 2 will be a formidable challenge. For the most vulnerable to severe illness – at least 7.5 million of the elderly, the disabled, and people with selected chronic illnesses – completing the two-dose regimen is an urgent task. Every delayed vaccination will cost lives,” Winnie stressed.
“Deploying pharmacists and GPs to vaccination sites could be one mechanism to scale up the workforce to deliver the estimated 75,000 – 150,000 jabs required a day. The other is to implement pharmacy-based vaccination programs, where trained and accredited community pharmacists deliver vaccinations on their premises.”
“Alongside GP clinics, this makes it more convenient for eligible residents nearby to access their jabs, prevent overcrowding of vaccination sites, also allowing the public sector to have enough resources for outreach to remote pockets and aged care homes. Selangor, Kuala Lumpur, Penang, and Johor – accounting for over 60% of the country’s community pharmacies in 2016 – are populous states in which such an approach can increase the speed of coverage,” she emphasised.
According to the International Pharmaceutical Federation data in 2020, at least 36 countries around the world depend on pharmacists as part of its immunisation workforce.
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