A successful Australian pilot study led by The University of Western Australia could lead to monitoring the safety of vaccines administered in pharmacies across Australia, including the safety of COVID-19 vaccines.
Until now there has not been a system in place to broadly track and monitor the effects of in-pharmacy vaccinations, even though many Australians visit pharmacies every year to get vaccinated.
The new system can allow for real-time monitoring of vaccine safety across Australian pharmacies and has already attracted significant interest from the health sector to roll it out Australia-wide.
The pilot was made possible through a partnership with SmartVax, MedAdvisor and the Queensland University of Technology, and a $40,000 grant from the Pharmaceutical Society of Western Australia via the JM O’Hara Research Fund.
"For the first time we have have a system that collects and links pharmacy vaccination data with established infrastructure including the Australian Immunisation Register, AusVaxSafety and the TGA"Dr Sandra Salter
It included 7,000 participants across WA pharmacies and used SMS and smartphone technology to monitor the effects of influenza vaccines administered by pharmacists. Three-quarters of vaccinated participants logged their responses to vaccine reactions using the program, half of them within 13 minutes.
Project lead Dr Sandra Salter from the UWA School of Allied Health/Pharmacy said theSmartVax surveillance system was well established in vaccine safety surveillance in Australia. Dr Salter said when combined with the MedAdvisor PlusOne platform, a program available in approximately 65 per cent of Australia’s pharmacies to record patient immunisations, it provided a robust, automated, user-friendly system to rapidly track vaccine safety.
"The development of this program is very exciting because for the first time we have have a system that collects and links pharmacy vaccination data with established infrastructure including the Australian Immunisation Register, AusVaxSafety and the TGA,” she said.
”This infrastructure connects patients, pharmacies, GPs, the Health Department and government authorities together so we can rapidly keep across vaccine use and detect safety signals early.
UWA partnered with pharmacies to conduct the study. Left to right: Pharmacist Noel Fosbery and study lead Dr Sandra Salter.
“To put our results into perspective, around five per cent of pharmacist-vaccinated patients, compared to six per cent of general practice and clinic-vaccinated patients reported an adverse event following immunisation.
“In both cases, patients received the flu jab, and there were similar response rates to surveillance messages, reaction types, and all reactions were reported using the same platform. While the reasons for this difference are yet to be teased out, we can be confident that pharmacists are safe immunisers.”
The system could be used as a critical resource, enabling pharmacists to support COVID-19 vaccine rollout and ongoing immunisation programs.
”The beauty of this system is that it’s scalable, meaning we could soon be monitoring adverse events following immunisation from thousands of pharmacies in real-time,” Dr Salter said.
”Our high levels of patient engagement show the value the public place on this direct communication and support from their trusted pharmacy. And, the system can monitor reactions to any vaccine, aiding public safety and confidence in vaccinations.”
Founder of SmartVax and GP Dr Alan Leeb said active adverse event surveillance following immunisation played an important role in monitoring and ensuring vaccine safety.
”It has been exciting to partner with the pharmacy sector and MedAdvisor in providing this service to our patients, the Australian public, further enhancing confidence in the safety of our National Immunisation Program,” Dr Leeb said.
Robert Read, CEO of MedAdvisor said it was a perfect example of how technology could be used to improve patient safety.
”Monitoring of vaccine safety has never been so important and we are proud to offer a solution for pharmacies that is effective, automated and scalable.”