Pharmacists are preparing for another busy year ahead with the roll-out of COVID-19 vaccines and growing flu vaccination demand which this year will culminate at the same time.
According to a MedAdvisor survey of nearly 250 pharmacies, 97% of them will be providing the flu shot vaccine in store this year.
A further 92% are looking to offer the COVID-19 vaccine this year with the majority citing that the main driver behind offering the service is to help their communities overcome the virus rather than boost revenue.
“Last year, when the pandemic reached Australia, we were inundated with customers filling prescriptions, stocking up on pharmacy supplies and asking for COVID-19 related health advice. On top of that, we vaccinated double the amount of patients against the flu compared to 2019.” George Stefanos, proprietor and pharmacist from Amcal Mordialloc said.
“This year we expect to experience similar levels of consumer demand, with the addition of the COVID-19 vaccine which will coincide with flu season. Ahead of the vaccine rollout, we're looking at how we can improve our systems - leveraging technology, such as MedAdvisor which plays an instrumental role in our pharmacy workflows to, ultimately, create a better and more streamlined customer experience, either in-store or online.”
Last year, pharmacists dealt with dramatic patient increases with MedAdvisor flu shot data showing a 330% year-on-year spike in flu shots as Australians rushed to get immunised earlier than usual. Flu shot demand typically peaks in May. Last year, as a direct result of COVID-19, MedAdvisor saw that peak come forward with more people opting for the jab in April.
“Pharmacy is already doing a great job administering the flu shot each season. This year, the flu shot season will align with the roll-out of COVID-19 vaccines in pharmacies - which means having a system in place to streamline the patient experience is more important than ever,” MedAdvisor CEO Robert Read said.
MedAdvisor continues to develop its end-to-end pharmacy platform including booking functionality, in-app payment and medication delivery to help with the roll-out of COVID-19 and influenza vaccines as well as heightened consumer demand.
“Building tools and workflows which help optimise what is a huge undertaking by pharmacies to help vaccinate our community from both COVID-19 and influenza is a key priority MedAdvisor has been working on,” Read said, adding that “Pharmacists last year dealt with unprecedented demand for their services, as well as having their shelves stripped bare during panic buying and contending with all the uncertainty around the pandemic. Now, pharmacists are contending with growing demand for their services and they need technology to help deal with the workload.”
Earlier this month, Health Minister Greg Hunt announced a $200 million program to distribute the COVID-19 vaccine through pharmacies as part of the stage two roll-out. Pharmacies in major cities will be paid up to $42 per person – $16 per jab, and $10 after the second vaccination – while the vaccine itself will be provided free of charge. In rural and regional areas the payment will be $48 per person.
The Federal Government will pay some of the 5800 community pharmacies across the country who meet certain criteria to give coronavirus vaccines for free. The program is expected to start in May, when phase 2 of the rollout to people over 50 and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders is due to start.