Pharmacist speaks out about COVID-19 vaccine wastage, urges Albany community to roll up their sleeves

Headshot of Tom Shanahan
Tom ShanahanAlbany Advertiser
Amcal+ Pharmacy Albany managing pharmacist Ben Ng with the Moderna vaccine.
Camera IconAmcal+ Pharmacy Albany managing pharmacist Ben Ng with the Moderna vaccine. Credit: Laurie Benson/Laurie Benson

An Albany pharmacist has given an insight into the extent of COVID-19 vaccine wastage across WA, with pharmacies forced to throw away unused doses despite barely half of eligible West Australians being fully vaccinated.

At least four Albany pharmacies are now offering both the Moderna and AstraZeneca vaccines, including Amcal+ Pharmacy on York Street.

Amcal+ managing pharmacist Ben Ng said he often had to throw out more than half of the pharmacy’s Moderna jabs because of the vaccine’s short lifespan.

“With Moderna it is hard to maintain stock with the vaccine once it is opened,” he said.

“We get 10 jabs per vial ... once a vial is opened we have six hours to use it and then you have to discard what-ever is left over. On average we only use about three to four (vaccines) before we have to discard it, while on weekends we may be doing as few as one or two before we have to discard the rest.

“I am concerned by the wastage because we are going through the vaccines a lot quicker than we want to.”

Mr Ng also revealed his pharmacy had only administered four doses of the AstraZeneca jab since receiving it just over a month ago.

He urged the community not to be complacent, stressing the city’s ageing population would put it at increased risk in an outbreak.

“Albany is quite far away from the Eastern States, where all the COVID is happening, so people here are getting a bit complacent thinking that they may not be affected by COVID,” Mr Ng said.

“There is a high percentage of older people here so if there is an outbreak, the consequences here will be a lot more severe than in Perth.”

Albany Plaza Discount Drug Store managing pharmacist Jillian Stoney was pleased to offer the Moderna and AstraZeneca jobs after having to wait a month longer than other areas in regional WA.

The first phase of Australia’s pharmacy rollout launched on July 12 with a select group of pharmacies which met certain geographical and population requirements under a Modified Monash Model rating system.

Albany was not included in the first phase, but towns such as Mt Barker, Denmark, Katanning and Narrogin were.

At the time, Pharmacy Guild of Australia WA director Matthew Tweedie told the Advertiser the system was “absurd”, and called on the Federal Government to open the rollout to all pharmacies.

That rating system was scrapped later in July, opening the gates for eligible Albany pharmacies.

Ms Stoney said after an “incredibly frustrating” wait for the vaccines, she now had about 40 people getting vaccinated each week.

“Now that we have got Moderna and Astra Zeneca, we can vaccinate people 12 and above, so that has been very popular,” she said.


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