Community pharmacist vaccination
To make vaccines more easily and conveniently available to the general public, a number of countries have introduced pharmacist vaccinators. In 2012, when the influenza and Tdap vaccines were reclassified, pharmacists in New Zealand who had completed an approved vaccinator training course established vaccine delivery services. In 2013, zoster (shingles) and meningococcal vaccines were reclassified increasing the range of vaccines community pharmacists could deliver. You can visit the Medsafe Reclassification of vaccines webpage for more detailed information. In 2017 PHARMAC approved funded influenza vaccine being delivered in community pharmacies to pregnant women and people aged 65 years and over. Eligible members of our communities 64 years and below who have a chronic condition will still have to be referred to General Practice for their influenza vaccine.
This page provides community pharmacists with a one-stop-shop for the information they require to set up and maintain an immunisation delivery service.
The Medicines Regulations 1984, states that the Director General of Health or a medical officer of health may authorise any person to administer a vaccine (which is a prescription medicine) for the purposes of an approved immunisation programme. Clause 44A(2) requires that the vaccinator must meet certain criteria around knowledge, skills, safe handling of vaccines and equipment and resuscitation.
The Health Practitioners Competence Assurance Act 2003 defines the scope of practice for pharmacists.
In the early stages of pharmacists vaccinating in New Zealand all vaccines were prescription medicines and pharmacists had to seek authorisation from their local medical officer of health. However, with the 2012 and later reclassifications by the Medicines Classification Committee of certain vaccines, pharmacists were no longer required to seek authorisation under The Medicines Regulations 1984.
The practice of all vaccinators must meet the current Immunisation Standards for Vaccinators which can be found in Appendix 3 in the Immunisation Handbook 2017 2nd Edition.
How to qualify as a pharmacist vaccinator
Pharmacist vaccinators are required to undertake vaccinator training and clinical assessment that meets the same standards as authorised vaccinators. The requirements to maintain competency are also the same.
All vaccinators are required to complete an approved vaccinator training course (VTC) and pass the written assessment, complete an independent clinical assessment, hold a current annual practicing certificate (APC) and have a current CPR certificate. Approval lasts two years from the date of the VTC (or date of the Flexi VTC Tutorial).
Pharmacists who have completed the theoretical and clinical assessments must notify the Pharmaceutical Society (PSNZ).
An email with the information below is sufficient. No copies of the vaccination certificate or resuscitation certificates are required. Emails should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org and should include Pharmacist Vaccinator in the subject line.
- Full name
- Membership number
- Name of the pharmacy or pharmacies which vaccinations will be provided from, or if the pharmacist is a locum
- Date of the course
- Date of their clinical assessment
See A4.1.2 Process for all vaccinators in the Immunisation Handbook 2017 2nd Edition for further details.
Approval to vaccinate, as stated, lasts for two years from the completion of the VTC. Before this period is up pharmacist vaccinators must renew their vaccinator status. To do this all vaccinators must; complete a vaccinator update that meets the current Vaccinator Update Course standards, maintain a summary of immunisation practice over the previous 12 months and have current APC and CPR certificates. See A4.1.4 Process for two-yearly renewal of vaccinator status for all vaccinators in the Immunisation Handbook 2017 2nd Edition for further details.
On completion of their vaccinator update course, pharmacists should advise the PSNZ using the process for initial training (described above).
- Sign up here to receive the bi-monthly newsletter ImmNuZ from IMAC
- Ministry of Health (MoH) monthly Immunisation Update
Pharmacist vaccine programmes
Initially influenza vaccines were delivered by community pharmacists only to members of the public who purchased the vaccine. From 1 April 2017, pharmacists have delivered vaccine on the funded influenza programme to people 65 years and over and pregnant women. People under 65 years with chronic conditions like asthma, heart disease or diabetes, still need to go to their general practitioner to get their funded influenza vaccine, although some of this group may choose the convenience of purchasing the vaccine at a pharmacy. Pharmacists may administer influenza vaccine to people aged 13 years and above. To provide a funded influenza vaccine programme from a community pharmacy the pharmacy must have a signed contract with their respective District Health Board (DHB). If you would like more information on this, please email the Ministry of Health online Helpdesk email@example.com.
The Immunisation Advisory Centre provides an annual ‘Influenza Kit’ to community pharmacies with all the information required for the year’s influenza vaccine campaign. In addition two websites provide influenza information to:
At the start of each influenza vaccine season community pharmacists should:
- review their brochures, handouts and other resources to ensure they are appropriate for that year, and dispose of/recycle expired resources and order current information
- update any Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) relevant to best practice and ensure they align with any new guidelines released
- read the new Influenza Kit and make accessible to all staff
- pre-order vaccines in accordance with instructions provided in the Flu Kit booklet and www.influenza.org.nz
- communicate the key messages and any programme changes to all staff
- ensure they have an updated pharmacist vaccinators consent form that includes a notification to the patient's general practitioner or lead maternity carer (with patient consent)
- encourage all staff to receive the flu vaccine
Herpes zoster (shingles) vaccine is indicated in individuals 50 years and over for:
- prevention of herpes zoster (shingles)
- prevention of postherpetic neuralgia
- the reduction of acute and chronic zoster-associated pain
The approved zoster vaccine is Zostavax. More information can be found on the IMAC factsheet Quick answers to frequent Zostavax questions and Chapter 22 Zoster (herpes zoster/shingles) in the Immunisation Handbook 2017 2nd Edition. Pharmacists are not able to claim for administration of this vaccine to individuals who meet the National Immunisation Schedule eligibility criteria.
Tetanus, diphtheria, and acellular pertussis vaccine (Tdap)
The first year of life is the most vulnerable age group for pertussis (whooping cough). The primary aim of the reclassification of Tdap was to increase the access to the Tdap booster vaccine (not primary course doses) to improve uptake by adults in close contact with infants. This includes parents, grandparents, health workers, and caregivers. Pregnant women are eligible for funded Tdap vaccine between 28 and 38 weeks of every pregnancy administered in general practice or by a midwife. Funded Tdap vaccine is currently delivered to pregnant women by pharmacist vaccinators within the Waikato DHB region only.
Pharmacist vaccinators may administer Tdap vaccine to people 18 years and older. The approved Tdap vaccines are Adacel and Boostrix. For more information see Chapter 14 Pertussis (whooping cough) in the Immunisation Handbook 2017 2nd Edition.
The primary aim of the reclassification of meningococcal vaccine was to reduce the incidence, morbidity, and mortality from meningococcal invasive disease, primarily in at-risk adolescents, by increasing access to the vaccine.
Pharmacist vaccinators may administer meningococcal vaccines to people aged 16 years and over. There are two different types of meningococcal vaccine; conjugated and polysaccharide. Pharmacist vaccinators should be familiar with the range of vaccines and reasons for using different ones. For more information see the IMAC factsheet Purchase of non-funded meningococcal vaccines for detailed information on meningococcal vaccines and Chapter 12 Meningococcal disease in the Immunisation Handbook 2017 2nd Edition.
Delivering a vaccination service in a community pharmacy
When planning a vaccine delivery service the community pharmacist needs to consider vaccine storage, staff training, the physical requirements in regard to consultation and waiting space, and emergency and vaccine equipment.
Cold chain management
From 1 February 2018, cold chain management in pharmacies is regulated as part of the pharmacy licensing framework administered by Medicines Control. Visit the Ministry of Health (MoH) website page National Immunisation Programme cold chain management to read the FAQs on vaccine Cold Chain Compliance for community pharmacies fact sheet. A fact sheet for Immunisation Coordinators FAQs for immunisation coordinators on vaccine Cold Chain Compliance for community pharmacies is also available on the MoH cold chain management webpage.
Community pharmacies who are offering or who plan to offer vaccination services are responsible for complying with all requirements within the Standards (including appropriate equipment, monitoring, recording, and policies and procedures) outlined in the National Standards for Vaccine Storage and Transportation for Immunisation Providers 2017. The MoH cold chain management webpage National Immunisation Programme cold chain management has links to the current National Standards for Vaccine Storage and Transportation for Immunisation Providers 2017 and other documents and forms required for temperature monitoring and cold chain compliance. You can also find more information on cold chain on our cold chain page.
Immunisation Coordinators will continue to provide community pharmacies with:
- Cold chain advice (e.g. when purchasing new cold chain equipment)
- Assistance with cold chain breaches or failures
- Clinical assessments for pharmacists who have completed their vaccination training course
- Three yearly spatial logging of pharmaceutical refrigerators.
Visit on our webpage Regional advisors and local coordinators to obtain the contact details for your local Immunisation Coordinators.
Training pharmacy staff
Community pharmacists offering a vaccination service must ensure that all staff are familiar with the service being provided and their role in that service. In particular ALL frontline staff must be aware of the risk of anaphylaxis following immunisation and the pharmacy procedure for its management. It is important to note that while a pharmacist vaccinator requires a CORE immediate - Adult and Child certificate at least one other member of the team must be able to call for emergency support and have a basic first aid certificate. This is to be adhered to at all times when vaccination services are provided.
Funded influenza vaccines are ordered through Healthcare Logistics (HCL). Minimum quantities apply and orders can be placed online or via fax. Details can be found in the Flu Kit booklet, an electronic copy is available on the resources page on the Influenza info for health professionals website, www.influenza,org.nz.
Other vaccines can be ordered through the pharmacy’s pharmaceutical wholesaler.
Pharmacy vaccination standard operating procedures (SOPs) can be found on the Pharmacy Guild of New Zealand and Green Cross Health websites.
Pharmacists and other staff should be familiar with their local procedures around sharps management and injury, resuscitation/anaphylaxis management and incident reporting.
Obtaining written resources
For influenza vaccine your annual Flu Kit and www.influenza.org.nz are the key locations of written resources and how to order them. It is not necessary to photocopy patient leaflets. Please ensure that you always use resources specific to the current year. Essential items are the:
- Consumer information brochures and
- After immunisation pads
In addition to the HealthEd site, Meningococcal, Tdap and Zostavax vaccine patient resources may be available from the local pharmaceutical company representative.
Vaccination and waiting areas
Prior to establishing a vaccination service the pharmacist must ensure that they have a space that enables them to administer vaccines and a safe manner that provides for patient privacy and confidentiality. You also need to consider where your client will wait for the 20 minutes post-immunisation. They should always be within line of sight. Will you have a specific waiting area or will they browse the pharmacy? Your local immunisation/coordinator can provide advice on this.
Physical setup considerations/privacy
You should consider the organisation of your ‘vaccinating space’. To facilitate a conversation that provides for ‘informed’ consent you should have two chairs available. Having this conversation while the client and/or you are standing is not good practice. It implies you are in a hurry and is not comfortable for many people.
Can you access the adrenaline and emergency equipment quickly? Are you left or right handed? Ideally the syringe and needle are popped in the sharps bin immediately after removing from the client's arm. Can you reach it? You may need to reposition chairs etc. to provide for your comfort and the client’s safety.
Do you require/have computer access in the room? Are patient leaflets and any forms required, hand sanitiser, swabs, plasters etc. accessible? This video discusses setting up your work area.
Infection control and sharps management
Normal clinical procedures related to vaccine handling and sharps management must be adhered to.
In a community pharmacy vaccines can only be administered by approved pharmacist vaccinators. To revise vaccine administration please refer to Chapter 2. Processes for safe immunisation in the Immunisation Handbook 2017 2nd Edition and your VTC manual. All vaccinators must:
- Maintain the appropriate emergency equipment and check prior to administering vaccines
- Check that vaccines have been appropriately stored prior to administration
- Undertake a pre-vaccination check to ensure the correct vaccine is delivered to the client and that there are no contraindications or precautions that preclude delivery as per the pharmacist's pre-vaccination checklist and consent.
- Obtain informed consent, including about the National Immunisation Register (NIR) and information sharing
- Deliver vaccines safely and dispose of the syringe and needle appropriately
- Provide verbal and written post-immunisation advice including details of who to contact in the event of an adverse event following immunisation
- Remind the client they need to wait for 20 minutes before leaving the pharmacy
- Appropriately document the immunisation event including advising the clients general practice and/or NIR (if the client consents)
These four videos give a basic overview of the preparation and administration of Meningococcal, Tdap and Zoster vaccines. Please note that the Zostavax diluent now comes in a prefilled syringe and no longer needs to be drawn up. Click on the full screen icon to view larger.
Sharing information/confidentiality/National Immunisation Register (NIR)
Pharmacist vaccinators are required to use the NIR web application called ImmuniseNow to record all funded vaccinations on the NIR, they may also use it to record non-funded vaccinations. They must first complete an NIR Authorised User Agreement (AUA) for pharmacies form and submit this to firstname.lastname@example.org. Once access confirmation is received they can go into the MoH web application ImmuniseNow and enter the vaccination event information. NB: ImmuniseNow is only available through the Connected Health network at the pharmacy.
Pharmacist vaccinators are required to notify a patient's general practice (GP) that they have administered a vaccination to their patient. A new section called GP Practice has been added to the ImmuniseNow web application. The updated application went live on Tuesday 27 March 2018. After the vaccinating pharmacist has added the vaccination information to the GP Practice section on ImmuniseNow, the NIR will send a notification to the patient's general practice/clinic/medical centre to advise them that their patient has received a vaccination.
Pharmacists must ensure that all untoward incidents are reported appropriately following local procedures, including their Immunisation Coordinator.
Incidents that (may) affect vaccine delivery may also need to be reported to the Centre for Adverse Reactions Monitoring (CARM). For example a vaccine administration error that may affect vaccine effectiveness such as administering expired/compromised vaccine. Pharmacists should also notify their local immunisation co-ordinator/facilitator when making a CARM report.
Audit and research
Immunisation data is collected through the NIR however, community pharmacies may occasionally be asked to participate in audits, for example through PHO’s, DHB’s or pharmacy organisations or research projects, for example by IMAC. They may also choose to undertake their own audits within the pharmacy or pharmacy group.
Pharmacists delivering vaccines ‘off-site’
Some pharmacists may offer an off-site immunisation service e.g. vaccinating staff in a workplace or patients in a rest home. The requirements for authorised vaccinators delivering this service may provide a helpful check list for community pharmacists and can be found in Appendix 4 in the Immunisation Handbook 2017 2nd Edition. Pharmacists must also meet the cold chain requirements for offsite vaccination described in the National Standards for Vaccine Storage and Transportation for Immunisation Providers 2017. Community pharmacist are not required to apply to the Medical Officer of Health for programme approval.
Professional membership based association representing the pharmacy profession. The PSNZ maintains a register of all pharmacist vaccinators in NZ and pharmacist vaccinators are therefore required to advise them when they become approved
A non-profit, pharmacist support organisation.
Membership of PDA is designed specifically to provide assistance to pharmacists in the event of professional indemnity, public liability and statutory liability claims.
Protects the health, safety and wellbeing of the public by ensuring pharmacists are competent and fit to practise
Provides support and services to community pharmacy owners. The aim is to ensure members realise their professional and financial potential
Primary health care provider representing community pharmacies under the Unichem and Life Pharmacy brands and medical centres under The Doctors brand.
Other useful sites
Medsafe Reclassification of vaccines January 2016
HealthEd health promotion/education resources
SHIVERS (Southern Hemisphere Influenza and Vaccine Effectiveness Research and Surveillance) Key findings. Conference presentation
http://www.influenza.org.nz/ NISG influenza website for health professional
http://www.fightflu.co.nz/ NISG influenza website for the public
https://vimeo.com/album/3604422/video/142086684 This video demonstrates a strategy to manage a needle-phobic patient requiring a flu vaccine and provides an overview of immunising an adult with influenza vaccine