Get Pharmacists, GPs To Administer Covid-19 Vaccines: Galen Centre

If general practitioners are roped in to the national Covid-19 vaccination programme, it will allow easy access for residents to get their shots and prevent overcrowding at vaccination sites.

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 16 — The National Covid-19 vaccination programme should include general practitioners (GPs) and pharmacists as vaccinators, the Galen Centre for Health and Social Policy said. 

Galen Centre chief executive Azrul Mohd Khalib said he hoped that the government will use the national Covid-19 vaccination programme as an opportunity to mobilise and work with the private sector, specifically pharmacists and GPs, to be vaccinators.

“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,” Azrul said in a statement today.

“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.” 

Health Minister Dr Adham Baba previously said the government was targeting seven vaccinators at each vaccination site, with each vaccinator to administer vaccines to 30 people a day. That is equivalent to 210 shots-to-the-arm per site, or 126,000 shots daily across 600 vaccination sites.

Research officer and registered pharmacist at the Galen Centre, Winnie Ong, said that by involving pharmacists and GPs in the vaccine rollout, it will free up doctors and nurses for treatment and draw their existing capacity in patient care, health education, and vaccination advocacy. 

“Deploying pharmacists and GPs to vaccination sites could be one mechanism to scale up the workforce to deliver the estimated 75,000 to 150,000 jabs required a day. The other is to implement pharmacy-based vaccination programmes, where trained and accredited community pharmacists deliver vaccinations on their premises,” Ong said. 

“Compared to frontliners in Phase One, who are attached to their work stations, reaching the target population distributed far and wide across the community in Phase Two 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.”  

Ong also said that if GP clinics are roped in the vaccination programme, it will be more convenient for residents to get access to their Covid-19 shots, which also prevents overcrowding at vaccination sites. 

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.

Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin announced today that Malaysia will be receiving the first batch of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine on February 21 and the national Covid-19 vaccine rollout will begin on February 26, targeting 500,000 frontliners. The half a million people comprise health care workers across the public and private sectors, as well as frontline workers in essential services and security. 

Association of Private Hospitals Malaysia (APHM) president Dr Kuljit Singh said APHM is waiting to discuss the mechanism of vaccination at private hospitals, as many would be happy to be vaccinated in private hospitals.

“It’s a service we can provide for the public. However, we are waiting for further instructions,” Dr Kuljit said. 

Dr Kuljit said APHM is also thankful that the government has included health care providers in private hospitals to simultaneously get the Covid-19 vaccine alongside health care workers from the government sector. 

“We will work closely with the government to make sure all the frontliners are covered with vaccination in the healthcare sector.”

At the same time, Dr Kuljit urged the public who are suitable to get themselves vaccinated, as he stressed that the potential long-term complications of Covid-19 is far more severe than the unlikely side effects of the Covid-19 vaccine.

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