Pharmacists in Portugal have been providing vaccination services for 10 years. Patients needed a medical prescription and the vaccine was not reimbursed. However, a new initiative, trialled in an area north of Lisbon, expanded its services to make it easier for people to avail of flu vaccination in their community pharmacy.
The pilot project ran from October 15 to 31 December 2018 and offered people aged 65 and over access to flu vaccination on the same terms as in National Health Service primary care units: They did not need a prescription and there was no administration fee.
The project was accompanied by an advertising campaign which included videos, leaflets and large posters. It was supported by an agreement between the Ministry of Health, the Health General-Directorate (DGS) and the Portugal’s National Association of Pharmacies (ANF).
Initial results from the pilot show an increase of 31.8% in the vaccination coverage in Loures. The ANF said giving pharmacists ‘parity’ with NHS primary care units made vaccination in the community more appealing. ‘The vaccination pilot in Loures is an additional and important step towards achieving the WHO goal of 75% flu vaccine uptake among older, people,’ it said.
Portuguese Pharmacies contribute to raising awareness of the importance of vaccination every year and have been providing vaccination services since 2008. After a change in the law in 2007 which expanded the role of pharmacists, the ANF organised training courses for its members.
Its success reflects a similar experience in Ireland where pharmacists can provide several vaccinations. Pharmacy-based vaccination in Ireland has increased the overall uptake of flu vaccination and is seen as a particularly effective way of reaching those in several risk groups: older people, pregnant women and people with chronic illnesses.
Cátia Sousa Marques, an ANF board member, said: ‘Portuguese pharmacies have along experience of offering vaccination but, with the success of this pilot, we hope to see the model used in Loures applied more widely for the whole flu season in the years to come.’