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District's COVID vaccine system an Australian first

Pharmacy team plays crucial role in vaccine delivery.

SydneyConnect Video: Pharmacy team plays crucial role in vaccine delivery

Sydney Local Health District has implemented an Australian-first COVID-19 vaccine closed loop medication system, to ensure the safe storage and preparation of the thousands of COVID-19 vaccines that are administered by the District every day.

Information and Communications Technology Services staff, in partnership with the Pharmacy team, developed the closed loop medication system to track every step of the vaccination process.

“It highlights the key role pharmacists play in developing new digitally enabled workflows and models of care. The system would not have been possible to build without the close working relationship of our two teams,” Richard Taggart, the District’s Chief Information Officer, said.

It utilises both the pharmacy dispensing system and the ICT vaccination system, the District’s Director of Pharmacy Rosemary Burke said.

“We can actually track the vaccine from the time it arrives in our District and is placed in the freezer through to the vaccination of an individual patient, in a seamless electronic manner,” she said.

Ms Burke leads a 180-strong Pharmacy team which has so far contributed to the delivery more than 1.3 million COVID-19 vaccines.

It includes pharmacists, pharmacy technicians and assistants plus nurses, dental staff, university health students, scientific officers, researchers and administration officers who have been seconded to help.

The team has reconstituted about 250,000 vials of COVID-19 vaccine since the District’s first vaccination centre opened its doors at RPA in February. More than 1.8 million needles and syringes have now been used across the District’s centres and mobile vaccination clinics.

“We’re involved in an extensive outreach program which is where teams will go out into the community,” Alex McNamara, the Chief Pharmacist at the NSW Health Vaccination Centre at Sydney Olympic Park, said.

“It has meant preparing doses in weird and wonderful places such as indoor basketball courts, community halls, gyms, hotel rooms and even the airport.”

Ms Burke said the establishing the pharmacy component of the vaccination program had been a mammoth exercise.

“It was a massive undertaking in a really short time. We had to set up systems from scratch. We had to think about the design of the workspaces, the work flows, what equipment we needed and how we were going to staff the vaccination centres,” she said.

Ahead of the vaccine rollout, the team developed procedures for complex cold chain vaccine storage including the use of ultra-cold temperature freezers.

They created a staff training program about vaccine preparation and, in collaboration with District’s biomedical engineering staff, designed special vial and syringe carriers.

The team also responded to new and expanding models of health care – working with rpavirtual hospital and Special Health Accommodation teams – to continue to meet the needs of the community.

“Nothing of this scale had been done before. I’m really proud of the creativity and enthusiasm of the staff in coming up with new ways to work and new systems,” Ms Burke said.

“I would really like to thank the pharmacists and the pharmacy staff who have done an absolutely incredible job to protect the people of NSW.”