New Australian pilot program to monitor the effects of flu vaccines

A new Australian pilot program led by The University of Western Australia, in partnership with SmartVax, MedAdvisor and the Queensland University of Technology, will monitor the effects of flu vaccines administered by pharmacists this flu season. When the novel COVID-19 vaccine becomes available, the program could monitor its effects through pharmacies.

Supported by a $40,000 grant from the JM O’Hara Research Fund of the Pharmaceutical Society of Western Australia, the program aims to fill a void where no surveillance program exists to monitor the effects of immunization from in-pharmacy vaccinations.

Project lead Sandra Salter from the UWA School of Allied Health/Pharmacy said pharmacists had been permitted to vaccinate adults against the flu for many years to improve the health of communities.

Last year children over the age of 10 were added, as well as other vaccines including measles, mumps and rubella, whooping cough, tetanus and meningococcal.

It is especially important for people to be immunized against flu this year, with overlapping COVID-19 and influenza infections predicted.

Central to the project is active vaccine surveillance, which is particularly important for vaccines that change such as the flu vaccine, and for new vaccines. For the first time worldwide, a four-strain flu vaccine specifically formulated for people 65 years and older is available and we will be monitoring it, along with all vaccines, in pharmacies.

SmartVax is a well-established system for vaccine surveillance in Australia receiving data from GP sites as well as local government immunization clinics and hospital immunization clinics, but until now, pharmacist immunizers have not been included. Bringing pharmacists a real-time surveillance system for adverse events following immunization is essential.”

Dr. Sandra Salter, UWA School of Allied Health/Pharmacy

The program will use established technology from SmartVax and MedAdvisor to create a world-leading immunization-effects monitoring program.

Founder of SmartVax and GP Dr Alan Leeb said the SmartVax team was excited to partner in an important project that would significantly enhance the safety of immunization delivery across Australia.

”This project is a gateway to being able to monitor adverse events for any new vaccine, at the population level,” Dr Leeb said. “Pharmacy will certainly play an important role in the rapid deployment of a COVID-19 vaccine when this does become available, and monitoring the effects will be more important than ever.

”Patients who receive immunizations at participating pharmacies will automatically be sent text messages to monitor adverse events following immunization. Pharmacists will then be to able provide support when needed.

“Pharmacists will have the capacity to report vaccine safety information back to GPs as well as the WA Health Department. The data collated will not identify individuals, meaning patient details will be kept confidential.”

Robert Read, CEO of MedAdvisor, said the current COVID-19 situation had really highlighted the critical role of pharmacists and the importance of vaccinations.

“Leveraging digital solutions such as MedAdvisor’s PlusOne pharmacy software and our linkage with SmartVax is a highly effective and scalable way to monitor adverse events and improve medication safety especially when new vaccines are introduced,” he said.

“We are excited to be participating in this program and look forward to continue to support pharmacies through smart technology.”

If the trial is successful, the program could be rolled out more broadly across Australia in 2021 in time for a coronavirus vaccine.

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The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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