LETTER | Include community pharmacists in Covid-19 vaccination programme

Malaysian Pharmacists Society


LETTER | The Malaysian Pharmacists Society (MPS) is delighted to receive the news from the Ministry of Health whereby the Covid-19 vaccine produced by Pfizer-BioNTech has been given conditional approval by National Pharmaceutical Regulatory Agency (NPRA).

With roughly 5,000 community pharmacists serving the nation as frontliners in disease prevention, MPS would like to urge the authorities to consider administering the Covid-19 vaccine to all community pharmacists seriously.

This is particularly important as community pharmacists are facing the public every day, both healthy and ill, and are at high risk of contracting Covid-19 and thus spreading to other people. With the community pharmacists properly vaccinated, it is then the public can seek their professional consultation with utmost confidence. Community pharmacy service is recognised as an essential service in any form under the movement control order (MCO).

On a side note, MPS would also like the authorities to deeply consider community pharmacists to be immunisers and be able to administer the Covid-19 vaccines to the public.

According to International Pharmaceutical Federation (FIP) data from 2020, in at least 86 countries, pharmacies play a variety of roles in vaccination advocacy, awareness and advice, and in at least 36 countries they play an active role in administering vaccinations, while this has been proposed or is undergoing development in a further 16.

One of the key levers for increasing vaccination rates across people’s life-course is to increase the convenience of access, and it is easy to see the significant role community pharmacists can play in this.

In the face of the current Covid-19 pandemic, and in preparation for future pandemics, it is imperative for community pharmacists to expand their vaccination pathways to achieve high vaccination coverage and collective immunity as quickly as possible.

Also, out of equity in access to disease prevention measures, and to ensure the highest possible level of quality of life and function at all stages of life and gain the full health and economic benefits from vaccination, it is an ethical and national health imperative to expand vaccination strategies through the diversification of vaccination pathways involving community pharmacists.

MPS calls on all stakeholders to:

1. Recognise and fully harness the potential and convenience of community pharmacies for public health, primary healthcare, and disease prevention strategies, including vaccination.

2. Foster the full integration of community pharmacies in our healthcare system, by creating the regulatory and operational conditions for interprofessional collaboration, including access to shared patient health records and vaccination records.

3. Expand the regulatory scope of practice of appropriately trained and certified pharmacists to authorise them to administer a broad range of vaccines beyond infancy.

4. Promote the competence of pharmacists in vaccine administration through the development of the required knowledge and skills as an integral part of pharmacists’ foundational education and training, and/or through continuing professional development opportunities.

5. Invest in prevention strategies, including vaccines and vaccination services by all providers, including pharmacists, to ensure equity in access to vaccinations and the sustainability of the service.

6. Ensure health system readiness for mass immunisation against Covid-19 and any future pandemics as soon as vaccines are available.

7. Include community pharmacists in emergency preparedness and response plans as frontline health workers.

The inclusion of community pharmacists as vaccine immunisers in Malaysia with a population of 32 million and millions of foreign workers and undocumented workers is an incredibly significant move to achieve herd immunity for Covid-19 pandemic.

The country needs all the help of the health care workers to carry this massive national vaccination programme.

MALAYSIAN PHARMACISTS SOCIETY (MPS) is the national association for pharmacists.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.