The national union of pharmacists (APB) has issued a clarification of the situation regarding access to this year’s flu vaccine by people aged over 50.
Earlier in the week, the news agency Belga carried a dispatch stating that anyone over 50 could now obtain a dose of the flu vaccine from a pharmacy without a prescription.
The reasoning for the change to normal practice was to save patients from making two visits to the family doctor: one to obtain the prescription, and another to have the vaccine administered.
The report had the Flemish association of GPs, Domus Medica, welcoming the change, as it would ease the pressure on doctors and save on administration.
“If people over 50 do not have to go to their doctor first for a prescription, the work can also be done more safely,” said Domus Medica president Roel Van Giel.
“This is a win-win for both the patient and the general practitioner.”
As a result of the announcement, the APB says, pharmacists have been swamped by customers coming in to pick up their dose of vaccine, but leaving empty-handed.
“It is true that GPs have asked to ensure that patients no longer have to come for a consultation twice,” said spokesperson Lieven Zwaenepoel of the APB.
“As pharmacists, we have been given that prescription right for the over-50s.”
However, that right only applies from the moment that the Royal Decree has been published in the Official Gazette.
“And that is something that has yet to happen in the coming days.”
Another problem is that there are simply not enough vaccines available at the moment to service all of the vulnerable target groups, without adding healthy 50-year-olds to the mix.
“We have more vaccines than in recent years,” said Zwaenepoel. “More than three million. But demand is also higher this year due to corona.”
As a result of the shortage, pharmacists are only supposed to deliver vaccines to priority target groups. That means the elderly over 65, the chronically ill, pregnant women and healthcare personnel.
Not only has the message caused a run on vaccines that are not available, many customers seem to think the vaccine is being provided without a prescription and without cost.
“But that is not correct either. The vaccine is cheaper, the patient contribution for priority groups has been reduced, but it is not free.”
what healthy over-50s can do, on the other hand, is reserve a dose of vaccine with their local pharmacy. The pharmacist will scan their ID card, and the details of the reservation entered in the shared pharmaceutical dossier all pharmacists have access to. Customers can then pick up their dose before 15 November and have a GP administer it.
“I am making a warm appeal to show solidarity with our most vulnerable fellow citizens,” said Zwaenepoel.
“Give way to people most at risk. Healthy people in their fifties are not one of them. And in any case, it is still a bit too early to administer a vaccine. This is best done between October 15 and December 15.”