Pharmacists have been included in Portugal’s National Health Service influenza vaccine programme for the first time. While pharmacists have been legally permitted to administer flu vaccines since the introduction of legislation in 2007, their role was primarily in the private market.
Now, 10,000 professionals in 2,750 pharmacies across the 37 municipalities are aiming to deliver 150,000 free vaccines to people over 65 years.
The expanded programme mirrors a pilot project completed in Lourses Municipality last year. The 2019 six-week pilot helped to increase flu vaccination rates by 32% by ensuring that customers did not need a prescription and would not be asked to pay an administration fee.
The new nationwide initiative was supported by the Ministry of Health, the pharmacy union (ANF), city councils and Associação Dignitude, an organisation campaigning for social and health equality.
‘It is demonstrated throughout the world that the use of the pharmacy network can increase immunization,’ said Maria de Belém Roseira, an Ambassador at Associação Dignitude a former Minister of Health.
‘The pharmacy chain ensures that vaccines reach the most vulnerable citizens, in comfort and safety conditions, close to their homes,’ said Paulo Cleto Duarte, president of ANF.
Like other European countries, increased demand has put pressure on vaccine supplies in Portugal. Jan De Belie, Professional Affairs Advisor at Pharmaceutical Group of the EU (PGEU), urged the public to be patient if they face delays in accessing vaccination.
‘We are only at the start of influenza season, so with the expected remaining delivery of flu vaccines, there is still time to get vaccinated,’ he said. ‘However, it is of utmost important that risk groups for influenza have priority access to the available flu vaccines.’
This echoes advice from the WHO that older people and health workers be prioritised if flu vaccine supplies are low.
My message to the public: be patient with your healthcare professional who is making every effort possible to accommodate anyone who requires a flu shot. (1) pic.twitter.com/YPh9iMU7JV
— Jan De Belie (@JanDeBelie) October 28, 2020