The Indian Pharmaceutical Association (IPA) along with the International Pharmaceutical Federation (FIP) plan to train community pharmacies and pharmacists to support the Government’s COVID-19 vaccine drive across the county.
The association intends to conduct an online training programme for around one lakh pharmacists as COVID-19 vaccinators by the end of December 2020.
A recent joint representation made by the IPA and FIP to Dr Harsh Vardhan, Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India, mentioned, “Community pharmacies and pharmacists are now at the disposal of our population and health authorities to facilitate a quick, safe and fully professional mass vaccination strategy against COVID-19, flu and other vaccine-preventable diseases. In at least 36 countries, pharmacists already play an active role in administering vaccinations, while this has been proposed or is undergoing regulatory development in a further 16 countries.”
“Vaccination is one of the cornerstones of any equitable and cost-effective health system across the globe and pharmacists look forward to joining efforts with other health professions in delivering vaccinations to our populations and contributing to bringing this pandemic under control. Community pharmacists are a valuable asset in expanding vaccination pathways. We are well aware of the ultra-cold supply chain and storage requirements of some of the recently announced mRNA vaccines against COVID-19. While recognising that this may represent a challenge, especially in some parts of the world, such vaccines can be kept in dry ice inside normal refrigerators for several days. While this will imply a speedy and well-coordinated logistical effort, it is not unreasonable to think that mass vaccination with such vaccines can be restricted to major hospital facilities with ultra-cold freezers. Solutions must be put in place for other vaccination providers to play a role in both urban and rural areas, and both in high-income and lower-income countries. And pharmacies can and should certainly be part of the solution. For successful implementation of a public vaccination programme, it requires enabling legislation, education and training programmes, certification, quality assurance (standards of care), documentation and oversight. This may seem like a large task list, but the key task for a Ministry of Health is to enact the enabling legislation to allow pharmacists to prescribe and administer vaccines,” stated the letter.
“Once in place, the pharmacy regulator in your country can collaborate with FIP and our Regulators’ Forum to implement the important regulatory oversight to ensure the quality of care and patient safety. The Regulators’ Forum is a vast regulatory resource of vaccination practice requirements currently in place in FIP member countries. If the enabling legislation is already in place, FIP can assist in the implementation spectrum of developing training programmes, certification, quality assurance, documentation and oversight, and access to established, quality training programmes from FIP partners,” said the letter.
Presently, there are around nine lakh registered community pharmacists in the country.
Dr TV Narayana, National President, Indian Pharmaceutical Association said, “We have written a letter to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India, informing about the strength and capabilities in supporting the Government’s COVID-19 vaccination drive. For that, we are planning to associate with the AIOCD and provide the required education and training to pharmacists, which will enable them to accelerate the pathways for full implementation.”
” There are around 65000 pharmacy teachers in the country, and we are planning to include them also in the training programme. Besides this, we are also considering Pharm-D students, as they have been already taking training as a potential health worker. The students who are in their final sixth year and undergoing an internship in private and government hospitals will be given priority. Besides this, we are also planning to take the help of MBBS doctors as they have the expertise and will accelerate the entire process,” informed Narayana.
While speaking on numbers, he informed, “We aim to prepare around 10 lakhs pharmacists as COVID-19 vaccinators by the end of January 2021. In IPA, we have 22 state branches and from each branch, we have asked to identify five thousand registered pharmacists who could be given required training and also helping in creating a national-level database of potential COVID-19 vaccinators. Along with WHO and FIP, we will be providing the online training which is divided into three stage modules and spread over two weeks’ duration. And in the first phase of the programme, we are aiming to train around one lakh pharmacists by the end of December 2020.”
The WHO along with FIP will be providing the resources like people and training material, locally it will be managed by IPA.