The NT has become the first jurisdiction in Australia to pass legislation permitting pharmacists to immunise people, previously the sole domain of doctors.
In a national first, pharmacists in the Northern Territory will soon be able to immunise people against the flu and measles.
But doctors say pharmacists can’t control their conflict of interest and this will be to the detriment of patients.
On Wednesday the NT government introduced changes to the Medicines, Poisons and Therapeutic Goods Act, which will allow pharmacists, nurses, midwives and Aboriginal health practitioners to immunise patients.
The NT is the first Australian jurisdiction to legislate such a change, although Queensland is currently conducting a similar trial.
There, a $25 fee has been proposed for a pharmacist-administered vaccination in Queensland, although it’s not yet known if the NT would follow a similar pricing scheme.
“In cost there’s almost certainly an advantage for consumers, and in convenience there’s definitely an advantage for consumers, because it becomes a one-stop shop,” said Greg Turnbull, spokesman for the Pharmacy Guild of Australia.
Pharmacies would require a private consulting room to administer vaccinations and to begin with they would only be immunising adults.
But the head of the Australian Medical Association NT says patients being vaccinated in a pharmacy will miss out on continuity of care.
“Doctors usually ask about other issues, they know about preventative health and make sure the patient’s long term health is going to be managed,” Dr Peter Beaumont told AAP.
“That just cannot and will not happen when people’s health is chopped up in pieces and they have vaccinations in pharmacies.”
He said pharmacists faced a conflict of interest when they advise, prescribe, sell and administer medications to patients.
“We know that pharmacists just push unproven vitamins and supplements… They’ve shown they don’t know how to control their conflict of interest, seeing as how if they can make a profit out of something they will sell it when they know there’s no evidence of the benefits for most people.”
But Mr Turnbull said vaccinations were within the scope of a pharmacist’s practice, although it was not yet included in their curriculum.
“There are all sorts of protocols and safeties – it’s certainly not a bonanza for pharmacists, it’s not turf-stealing by pharmacists against doctors, it’s just a common sense thing,” he said.
“Doctors just keep trying to build a bigger moat around their castle and unfortunately they’re at odds against common sense and the trend in the western world.”
He said pharmacies are already empowered to administer vaccines in every state of the US, in the UK, Ireland, and New Zealand.