Switch­ing over travel im­mu­niza­tion clin­ics may take a year

Regina Leader-Post - - CITY + REGION - PAMELA COWAN

Un­til details are mapped out, res­i­dents will con­tinue to get their travel vac­ci­na­tions at pub­lic health of­fices in Saskatchewan.

On bud­get day, the prov­ince an­nounced travel vac­ci­na­tion clin­ics will tran­si­tion from pub­lic health of­fices to pri­vate providers such as phar­ma­cies and physi­cians.

This year’s pro­vin­cial health bud­get is fo­cus­ing on fund­ing core ser­vices — ser­vices all prov­inces pro­vide in their pub­licly funded sys­tems.

“In a dif­fi­cult bud­get year, we looked at a va­ri­ety of things that could help us re­turn to our core and this was one of those ser­vices, know­ing that our neigh­bour­ing prov­inces al­ready have phar­ma­cists and physi­cians play­ing a key role in their travel vac­cine ser­vices,” said Kim­berly Kratzig, as­sis­tant deputy min­is­ter at the Min­istry of Health. “It’s just a nat­u­ral tran­si­tion for Saskatchewan as well.”

There will be sav­ings as a re­sult of the tran­si­tion, which could take up to 12 months to com­plete. How­ever, Kratzig couldn’t say how much money will be saved. That will be de­ter­mined by the num­ber of pub­lic health nurses im­pacted by the change.

Cur­rently, the num­ber of pub­lic health nurses who im­mu­nize trav­ellers amounts to about 15 full­time equiv­a­lent po­si­tions.

“The im­pact on all of those staff is un­known at this point as we plan a very thought­ful tran­si­tion to phar­ma­cies and physi­cians,” Kratzig said.

Be­cause travel im­mu­niza­tion isn’t cov­ered by the Min­istry of Health, the pro­grams are run by re­gional health au­thor­i­ties.

De­pend­ing on the lo­ca­tion of clin­ics, some pub­lic health nurses work ex­clu­sively on travel ser­vices. But in other ar­eas, pub­lic health nurses only spend a por­tion of their time pro­vid­ing travel vac­ci­na­tions.

“We’re do­ing some of that pre­cise plan­ning with our part­ners in the re­gional health au­thor­i­ties as we go for­ward,” Kratzig said.

Prior to the tran­si­tion, many is­sues must be fig­ured out — in­clud­ing ac­ces­si­bil­ity.

“For chil­dren un­der five, phar­ma­cists typ­i­cally have not been de­liv­er­ing those vac­cines in other ar­eas, so we would want to en­sure ac­cess to those peo­ple,” Kratzig said. “We want to en­sure readi­ness in our phar­ma­cists as well so they are ready and trained ap­pro­pri­ately through the reg­u­la­tory col­lege to pro­vide the ser­vice.”

She wouldn’t spec­u­late about whether travel vac­ci­na­tions would cost more or less when done by physi­cians or phar­ma­cists, but she ex­pected providers would be com­pet­i­tive in pro­vid­ing the ser­vice.

“We’re hope­ful that this will mean im­proved ac­cess for res­i­dents, as there are phar­ma­cies in many more lo­ca­tions than there are travel clin­ics cur­rently,” Kratzig said.

“Phar­ma­cists are al­ready an in­te­gral part of our flu vac­cine pro­gram,” Kratzig said. “They gave just over 90,000 flu vac­cines this past year, which is up about 63 per cent from the year pre­vi­ous, so cer­tainly phar­ma­cists are ex­pe­ri­enced in de­liv­er­ing vac­cines. In other prov­inces, they’re al­ready pro­vid­ing key vac­cine ser­vices as well.”

Given the tran­si­tion is a work in progress, it’s un­clear what train­ing phar­ma­cists will re­quire, said Ray Jou­bert, regis­trar of the Saskatchewan Col­lege of Phar­macy Pro­fes­sion­als.

“We know from where this is hap­pen­ing in other ju­ris­dic­tions that it is an area that re­quires highly spe­cial­ized train­ing in terms of travel health, travel medicine and travel vac­ci­na­tions,” he said. “Un­til we know ex­actly what we’re deal­ing with, it’s pretty hard to spec­u­late on what train­ing will be re­quired ... It’s one thing to ad­min­is­ter a vac­ci­na­tion for hep­ati­tis if you’re go­ing to Mex­ico, but it’s an­other thing to know what vac­ci­na­tions are needed if you’re trav­el­ling to other parts of the world where there’s trop­i­cal dis­eases like malaria and yel­low fever.”

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