Jonathan Chilton-Towle - Acting Editor | Pharmacy Today
Monday 14 January, 2019
Vaccinating pharmacists in Northland spent the summer holidays doing their bit to fight the recent meningococcal W outbreak that has claimed at least three lives in the region.
Late last year, the Ministry of Health rolled out a free vaccination programme through specially created super clinics, for children aged from nine months to five years and youths aged 13 to 20.
Over 16 days in December, 11,000 Northlanders were vaccinated.
Following that intervention, Northland DHB asked for expressions of interest from pharmacies to continue offering free vaccines.
Eight participating pharmacies were given special stocks of the meningococcal W vaccine to offer to patients in the same age groups as those targeted by the super clinics.
Standing orders extend vaccine option
Normally, pharmacists can only vaccinate patients aged 16 and over but, in this situation, standing orders were issued allowing them to administer the vaccine patients aged 13 and over.
In addition, nurses were dispatched to some pharmacies to offer the vaccinations to children aged nine months to five years.
As of 11 January, Northland pharmacists have vaccinated nearly 300 patients aged 13 to 20 with visiting nurses vaccinating an additional 100 children aged nine months to five years. The campaign is to continue until 22 February.
One of the participating pharmacies is Unichem Shackletons Pharmacy in Kaitaia.
Pharmacist Garvin Shackleton says, as of 7 January, the pharmacy had vaccinated around 20 people and a public health nurse had vaccinated a further 20 people across two visits to the pharmacy.
Getting the message to the public
Mr Shackleton anticipates the number of vaccinations will increase before the campaign ends and says the pharmacy owner, Atif Malkonyan, has been raising awareness with posters, radio ads and through social media.
He says most people vaccinated in the pharmacy have tended to be affluent New Zealand Europeans and it is possible the response may not be reaching vulnerable Māori populations.
“Raising awareness is the key thing.”
However, Mr Shackleton believes not much more could have been done to
respond to the outbreak and the vast majority of people wanting to get inoculated have been.
Pharmacists making a difference
Northland DHB general manager of child, youth, maternal, oral, public health services and district hospitals Jeanette Wedding says the DHB is extremely grateful for the pharmacists’ work – work which has contributed greatly to reducing harm from meningococcal W.
In addition to the pharmacy vaccination programme, the Government is to run a second stage of its vaccination campaign from 21 January to 22 February. A range of clinics will be held and might include GPs, Māori health providers and some Northland DHB community clinics, Ms Wedding says.
No more cases
No further cases of meningococcal W disease have been notified in Northland since the beginning of November last year.
Pharmacist Ian Buchanan with a young person seeking vaccination against meningococcal W.