New modelling suggests pharmacies could dramatically improve Australia’s COVID-19 vaccination rollout, bringing forward forecast targets by two months.
The McKell Institute released the modelling on Monday that showed using pharmacies to expedite Australia’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout could save the national economy $12.3 billion by bringing forward the date the country achieves herd immunity by two months.
If 4,000 of the pharmacies eligible to administer vaccines nationwide could be called on to help vaccinate the 80% of population, the modelling showed, it could improve Australia’s current target projections from 184 to 128 days.
Michael Buckland, executive director of the McKell Institute, said the data underscored how important it was for the federal government to draw on all its resources to get more Australians vaccinated, quickly.
“The vaccine supply issues have been resolved, but it’s not much good having the ammunition if you don’t get it into the hands of people who know how to use it,” Buckland said.
“Recent moves to accelerate the use of pharmacies in the wake of lockdowns are welcome. But in reality the government shouldn’t rest until every one of the four thousand eligible Australians pharmacies is administering vaccinations on a daily basis.”
According to the McKell Institute, current progress to vaccinate the Australian population, which has not met the government’s own roadmap target, is in part due to the fact less than 65 pharmacies are administering shots of the COVID-19 vaccine.
As at 12 July, about 11% (2,400,432) of Australians 16 years and over have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Australia’s vaccine rollout has ranked dead last out of 38 OECD nations for the percentage of the population who have been fully inoculated against the virus.
McKell’s modelling calculated that if 2,000 pharmacies were administering COVID-19 doses (in accordance with the governments own targets) by July 2021, Australia would be 1 million doses ahead of what it presently is.
“Although it’s strange that the pharmacies have been under-utilised to date, the important thing now is that the government moves swiftly to get all 4,000 delivering vaccines immediately.
“We all want to see the back of lockdowns, and if the government moves swiftly it will save us all two months and $12 billion,” Buckland said.
“In a positive, our projections find that if all pharmacies deliver vaccines there is hope that we can complete the roll-out before Christmas,” he added.
On the issue of vaccine hesitancy, Buckland said conversations about the role ‘conscientious objectors’ played in the delay of the vaccine rollout were important. But he also argued greater attention should be paid to the pragmatic measures that can be adopted to make the COVID-19 vaccine more accessible to the community.
“It’s natural to focus on conscientious objectors as an impediment to Australia’s vaccine rollout, but the evidence indicates the administrative difficulties people face are a bigger problem,” Buckland said.
“Making jabs available at the local pharmacy would go a long way to fixing this.”
This article was first published by The Mandarin.