Childhood checks critical to vaccination

AMA Queensland has successfully advocated for pharmacists to be able to vaccinate in general practices and aged care. But a retail store is not the best place to vaccinate children under 5, AMA Queensland Vice President Dr Nick Yim has told ABC Brisbane.

Transcript: AMA Queensland Vice President, Dr Nick Yim, ABC Brisbane, Breakfast with Loretta Ryan and Joel Spreadborough, Monday 30 October 2023

Subject: Childhood immunisation appointments

LORETTA RYAN:   You know how important childhood immunisations are keeping little ones safe from all those childhood diseases. But rates are falling. So the state government has expanded the immunisations that pharmacists can give and increased the age range so they can give shots to kids as young as two. Doctors are a bit worried about this.

JOEL SPREADBOROUGH:   Yeah, Loretta, Dr Nick Yim is the Vice President of the Australian Medical Association Queensland. He was a pharmacist before training as a doctor, very well placed to speak on this. Good morning to you, Nick. What are the chief concerns around pharmacists giving two-year-olds their immunisations?

DR NICK YIM:   Good morning, everyone. One of the big concerns with pharmacists administering vaccines to children in a retail setting is it misses an opportunity. Many parents, grandparents know when they present to a GP for a childhood immunisation, such as at the age of four, it’s not just sticking a needle in the arm. It's all about asking those right questions. How are the kids going with their growth? Are they talking? Are they walking, are they throwing a ball?

And it also gives us the opportunity to see how the parents are going. Are they having difficulties at home? Are they having any depression, bit of anxiety? And we can address any concerns. So that's our biggest concern. We need to ensure that these immunisations are given the right location and also give us the opportunity to screen these children to ensure that these delays aren't going to occur in the school age years.

JOEL SPREADBOROUGH:   Nick, you were a pharmacist. You're well placed on this. Do you believe pharmacists could or should be trained to spot these same issues at vaccine appointments?

DR NICK YIM:   One of the great challenges is in pharmacy is the time pressures. You're juggling the act of dispensing medication, counselling, medication. But I know when I went through a university degree at pharmacy, we weren't educated on how to detect developmental delays in children and that's one of the great difficulties. So a pharmacist’s degree doesn't equal a GP's degree. I can't imagine how I could become a dispensing pharmacist currently because there's so much work that they're doing. Pharmacists do a great job in our community assisting with medications and also giving those vital education to the health care to the community.

LORETTA RYAN:   The idea, though, isn't it, is to make it more accessible, these vaccinations, and just make sure parents will take their kids in because the rates are falling? So that has to be a positive thing, though.

DR NICK YIM:   I think one thing we need to remember is the childhood vaccinations, they're not an emergency. We know when our child is going to turn four, for example. We know their birthday, they're going to have a birthday party, et cetera. Many of these immunisations need to be booked in advance and that's a key message. But the greater message is education of the community, of the importance of vaccinations. And that's the key thing.

One area that we've been advocating for is obviously ensuring that pharmacists can be immunising in other areas such as aged care and also general practice. That's another avenue because we ensure that they are working in a collaborative environment so we don't miss those checks for our children.

JOEL SPREADBOROUGH:   Dr Nick Yim, Vice President of Australian Medical Association, Queensland. At the end of the day, Nick, GP clinics are businesses. Is there concern that they'll lose patients if younger people are getting vaccinated at pharmacies?

DR NICK YIM:   I don't think that is a concern. We want to ensure that we are protecting our community, our children, because one of the big issues that we are seeing moving forward is obviously speech delay, physical delays. And also we need to ensure our parents and grandparents are coping well with some of the challenges that we're seeing.

LORETTA RYAN:   So will you be putting your concerns to the state Government?

DR NICK YIM:   Oh, definitely. We have put our concerns to the state Government.

LORETTA RYAN:   Okay. Dr Nick Yim, thanks for joining us.

DR NICK YIM:   Always a pleasure.

LORETTA RYAN:   What do you think? That's Dr Nick Yim, the Vice President of the Australian Medical Association Queensland. Would you be happy to take your kids to the pharmacy to get their shots? We all go, don't we? But as Dr Yim is saying, he's concerned about just the kids needing to get those regular checks with the GP. The GP can notice little things, little changes as they grow.

JOEL SPREADBOROUGH:   Yeah, I think that advice on detecting things early, things you might miss out on, that’s probably the biggest concern.

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