Australia calls for pharmacists to join virus COVID-19 vaccination

SYDNEY (Reuters) – Australia will invite pharmacies this week to join a government-funded rollout of COVID-19 vaccine, the federal government said on Sunday, as the country approached 14 consecutive days without a locally acquired case.

The government will ask the country’s roughly 5,800 community pharmacies to apply for the program, which would pay them to administer inoculations, along with doctors and hospital health workers.

“That means more points of presence for Australians in terms of where they can receive their COVID-19 vaccine,” Health Minister Greg Hunt told reporters.

“This is potentially life-saving medication. The medicines can work with differing degrees of effectiveness, but all up, this can improve lives, extend lives, or save lives.”

The call to pharmacists came as Australia appeared set to record its 14th day in a row without a locally acquired case of the coronavirus, which has infected 29,000 in the country and killed 909.

The government plans to start vaccinating priority groups like older and Indigenous Australians with a shot developed by Pfizer Inc and BioNTech SE from late February.

The plan also involves a vaccine developed by AstraZeneca Plc, although that product has not yet been approved by Australia’s Therapeutic Goods Administration. Pharmacists involved in the program would receive training to administer the AstraZeneca vaccine, with first shots planned in May, Hunt said.