Pharmacists: prepare to manage vaccine-associated anaphylaxis


Mary Bushell

The training program developed by Ms Mary Bushell is being delivered to pharmacy students across a number of universities, including CDU

Pharmacists are one step closer to giving vaccinations as part of their professional role as a result of research published by pharmacy academics at Charles Darwin University.

CDU Pharmacy lecturer Mary Bushell has been developing a revised, dedicated, Australian immunisation training program for pharmacists and pharmacy students.

“Vaccination has been recently included within the scope of practice for Australian pharmacists,” Ms Bushell said. “One of the Australian Medical Association’s strongest objections to pharmacists giving vaccinations is pharmacists will not be able to manage life-threatening anaphylaxis (a severe reaction to vaccine).

“Pharmacists who inject vaccines must be prepared to give adrenaline using an auto-injector if a patient suffers the extremely rare side effect of anaphylaxis.”

The research published in the Journal of Pharmacy Practice and Research today comes as appropriately trained pharmacists across Australia prepare to administer vaccines to patients, depending on state legislation.

“Using an auto-injector differs from advice in the Australian Immunisation Handbook, which recommends using adrenaline ampoules and measuring the dose with a syringe,” she said.

“Auto-injectors are easy to use and allow rapid, sterile administration of adrenaline without removal of clothing. We believe this is faster and has less potential for error than drawing from ampoules. We will still support training people in the use of both.”

Using adrenaline auto-injectors is just one of the recommendations made by Ms Bushell and CDU Pharmacy Head Professor Patrick Ball, who researched the current evidence for treating anaphylaxis.

“If pharmacists who are required also to have current certification in first-aid, including CPR have completed approved vaccination training, Australian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy training and demonstrated competency using both adrenaline auto-injectors, and administering adrenaline by needle and syringe, they are as prepared as any other health professional to provide immediate emergency management of anaphylaxis within the community pharmacy setting,” Ms Bushell said. “Pharmacists are trained to ensure appropriate follow up and referral.

“Vaccination in pharmacies has been safe, effective and successful in increasing vaccination coverage in a number of other countries. Universities throughout Australia are embedding undergraduate injection skills and emergency management training into undergraduate training. All health professionals must demonstrate and maintain competency. Pharmacists are no different in this.”

The training program developed by Ms Bushell as part of her PhD entitled “Undergraduate Vaccination Training Program for Pharmacy Students: Development and Validation” is being delivered to pharmacy students across a number of universities, including CDU.

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