Fri, 09/07/2021 | News

Pharmacists reporting vaccinations to Australian Immunisation Register, but challenges exist

A new NCIRS report ‘A survey of pharmacist vaccination reporting to the Australian Immunisation Register (AIR)’ released today is the first to provide data on pharmacists’ immunisation reporting practices in Australia. The authors conducted a survey of community pharmacies providing vaccination services in June and July 2020. They found 82% of vaccines administered by pharmacists were recorded in AIR, although this is likely an overestimate of true reporting rates. 

Nearly all of the pharmacists involved in this study recorded information on vaccinations given in their pharmacies electronically and the majority used automated reporting software. Completeness of reporting was higher among those who used automated reporting methods; recorded the patient’s Medicare card number; and/or administered National Immunisation Program (NIP) vaccines.

The study found that difficulties accessing and using the AIR site are a substantial barrier to reporting by pharmacists. For example, respondents indicated that registering to access AIR was a long and complicated process with a heavy administrative burden and inadequate support to resolve problems. Other barriers included time and resource constraints for reporting data, especially when records were manually reported to AIR. Inaccuracies in some respondents’ knowledge about reporting obligations were also found. 

AIR is the primary source of data on immunisation coverage in Australia, and accurate and timely data are important for the public, healthcare providers and government. 

Community pharmacies have a growing role in delivering vaccinations, especially in improving access and coverage in regional and rural areas. The number of vaccines given by pharmacists has increased steadily since 2016, with demand likely to increase further with their involvement in the roll out of COVID-19 vaccinations. 

Of all provider types, pharmacists had the highest proportion of vaccination encounters recorded in AIR that could not be automatically matched to existing Medicare records, mostly due to incomplete or inaccurate patient information. Collaborating with software vendors to make the Medicare card number field mandatory could improve recording of this information and consequently reporting to AIR. 

Reporting of vaccinations to AIR by all providers became mandatory for all COVID-19 and influenza vaccines from 1 March 2021, and for all other vaccines funded on the National Immunisation Program from 1 July 2021. 

The authors of this study recommend improving reporting systems, particularly access to the AIR site, enhancing existing software to enable electronic reporting through integration with AIR and increasing uptake of automated software to record and report data to AIR. Ongoing support and education for pharmacists is also necessary to increase their awareness about their reporting responsibilities.

This NCIRS report is the second in a series on pharmacy vaccinations, with the first report published in 2020.

Read the full report here