There has been a range of responses from locals to the Berejiklian Government's announcement that approved community pharmacists in NSW will be included in the ramped-up COVID-19 vaccine rollout.
Last month it was announced that 22 pharmacies across regional and rural NSW would begin administering Astra-Zeneca as part of a pilot program.
Pharmacies in Guyra, Uralla, and Walcha were on the announced pilot list to give the jab to those aged over 60, and deliveries of the vaccine were scheduled to begin next week.
However, Walcha pharmacist Matthew Barwick said that although he had submitted an expression of interest in the program, he declined to proceed when it became clear there was not a strong enough demand in the community to support it.
"It was offered to us, but I haven't accepted it as it was only for people aged over 60, and the local doctor is vaccinating those people in our community," he said.
"I haven't received enough enquiries from eligible patients to make it viable.
"If they change the age criteria, I'll consider it, but most younger people that have asked me about it are wanting the Pfizer vaccine."
Uralla pharmacist Caroline Sevil said she would not be receiving the vaccine next week, because there was not enough demand.
"I've had queries from people, but I think there is some confusion in the community as a lot of people are calling us wanting Pfizer," she said.
"But I have had a few over 60's still wanting AstraZeneca, so I've been compiling a list of names for a clinic because the minimum order is for 100 doses.
"There is only a certain amount of time I can keep it refrigerated, and when you open one vial, you have to give 10 vaccines.
"I haven't had many enquiries from anyone aged under 60 to get AstraZeneca, and while I explain to them the risk of blood clots is low, there still appears to be hesitancy in the community.
"With the news that more Pfizer will be available in the coming months, I think people want to wait."
Earlier this week, it was announced by Premier Gladys Berejiklian that the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine will be made available to all residents in NSW aged 40 and over.
The latest news was frustrating for Guyra pharmacist Vu Nguyen who is enthusiastic about the pilot program.
"We have our clinic set up for flu shots, and we will use the same facility for the AstraZeneca vaccine, and I was hoping that NSW Health would open up for us to vaccinate for those aged under 60 years, but at the moment, the legislation means we can only do those aged over 60," he said.
"What they are talking about is one thing, but in reality, I can still only legally administer the AstraZeneca vaccine for those aged 60 and above.
"Our vaccines will arrive on the 23rd of this month, and I am starting to have a lot of queries. Some people want to get their second shot from me, and I've also got younger people interested, but I have had to refuse them because they are not in the proper age bracket, and that is disappointing.
A lot of people don't realise that what they are hearing on the news has not actually come into effect yet.Vu Nguyen
And while the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia (PSA) said it applauded the Berejiklian Government's announcement that approved community pharmacists will be activated in the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, the ever-evolving pandemic vaccine guidelines and delivery methods are causing confusion and frustration amongst pharmacy owners who are not part of the pilot program.
Josh Lee is the pharmacist in charge at Mount View Pharmacy in Armidale (which is not included in the pilot program) and says he is being inundated with queries from the community.
"It has been a super-duper waste of my time," he said
"Most of the queries have been from eligible people as our client base is mainly aged over 60.
"We put in our expression of interest back in January, and we proved we have the facility and the trained staff to do it. It was was pretty much a hurry up and wait situation and then nothing.
"I don't appreciate NSW Health wasting my time."
PSA NSW branch president Chelsea Felkai told the Armidale Express legislation should be changed by next week to allow the pilot pharmacists to administer AstraZeneca to those aged 40 and above.
"It is obviously a very recent change, and the legislation hasn't yet been enacted, but I have been in conversations today, and the revised legislation is planned to be changed by this Friday so that next week the pilot pharmacies can hit the ground running next week," Ms Felkai said.
"There is no reason that pharmacists can't have the discussion with patients now and make bookings for the weeks ahead. The risk of not being vaccinated greatly outweighs the risk of TTS clots."
Ms Felkai said while the intention was to roll out the program to all NSW pharmacists who wish to take part, there was currently no timing on when this would happen.
"This is just the initial phase so we can strongly support the 22 pilot pharmacies and ensure we get the model up and running so that when we roll it out to the broader pharmacy world, we can be more proactive than reactive," she said.
"All pharmacies that have submitted an expression of interest and have been approved by NSW Health have been submitted to the Commonwealth for approval, and there are 1250 of those pharmacies in NSW.
"This will eventually become like the flu vaccine program, and any pharmacy will be able to join providing they meet the requirements."
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