Your local pharmacist could be all that separates you from a lifesaving COVID-19 vaccine, as the world waits for a breakthrough in dozens of clinical trials around the globe.
The most promising comes from Oxford University, where a third phase is underway. The team is led by Professor Sarah Gilbert, and later this month 1000 Australian and New Zealand pharmacists will have the chance to speak to the woman with the weight of the world on her shoulders.
Professor Gilbert will run a webinar through the Australasian College of Pharmacy, giving pharmacists an opportunity to speak to the world-renowned virologist as they prepare for their role in safeguarding Australia and New Zealand from the deadly virus.
If it proves effective, billions of viles of the vaccine could be shipped around the world as soon as the end of this year, and community pharmacists could play a key role in administering the defence to everyday Australians.
It comes as the federal government issued a call out to companies across Australia to determine how much production and distribution of the drugs could be done locally once an effective vaccine was found.
College president Chris Owen said Queensland was ahead of the game, with the state’s pharmacists already approved to administer the vaccine when it hit the market, ahead of any other Australian jurisdiction.
“That was announced by (Health Minister) Steven Miles at least two months ago,” Mr Owen said.
“Dr Jeannette Young has previously said it would be great for everyone to have access to a vaccine through their local community pharmacy, and that the government continues to work with the Pharmacy Guild of Australia.
“Queensland leads the way when it comes to vaccinating, but pharmacists around the country would be able to vaccinate against COVID-19.
“We want to ensure pharmacists are at the forefront of clinical practice. We hope this motivates even more pharmacists to undergo training to become vaccinators.”
The webinar, set for later this month, will give pharmacists a chance to ask Professor Gilbert about her role in the largest international collaborative effort ever seen, which the World Health Organisation has recognised as being the most promising in the global race for a vaccine.
“There have been incredible amounts of collaboration across borders and across drug companies to ensure the betterment of everyone,” Mr Owen said.
“There has been before been such a collaborative effort.”
It’s been a tough few months for the country’s pharmacists as they struggled with drug shortages and increased pressure as a result of the global pandemic.
“It’s been a pretty rough six months, at the very early stages we were concerned about spread rates and access to PPE, and we had shortages of medication,” Mr Owen said.
“We still have genuine concerns but the most important thing for pharmacists is the health of our patients, of ourselves, and of our families.
“We are a ‘one-stop-shop’ for people who need healthcare information, PPE, vaccinations, medication, expert advice and anything else you could need.”
Australian and New Zealand registered pharmacists interested in attending the webinar with professor Gilbert should contact the Australasian College of Pharmacy via acp.edu.au