Australians are expected to have the option of receiving a COVID-19 vaccine from their local chemist as early as May, with community pharmacies asked to help administer shots during the second phase of the national rollout.

Key points:The Federal Government will send out expressions of interest to community pharmacies from MondayAll health workers involved in the vaccinations are to take part in trainingMr Hunt said the national vaccine rollout was still on track to begin in February

From Monday, the Federal Government will begin an expression of interest process, inviting Australia’s 5,800 community pharmacies to take part in Community Pharmacy COVID-19 Vaccination Program, Health Minister Greg Hunt announced at a press conference on Sunday morning.

Mr Hunt said pharmacies would be able to voluntarily opt in to dispensing the COVID-19 vaccines as part of Phase 2a of the national rollout.

“They are experienced, they are trained in dispensing medicines, and they would be participating from Phase 2a onwards, and that means more points of presence for Australians in terms of where they can receive their COVID-19 vaccine,” Mr Hunt said.

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A similar expression of interest process has already begun for general practices to assist in the delivery of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine.

In a statement announcing the program, Mr Hunt said pharmacies would need to demonstrate they had the capacity to deliver the vaccines, meeting standards set by the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation.

Pharmacies would be incentivised to provide both doses of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, to ensure maximum uptake, the statement said.

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All health workers involved would undertake a training program, which was expected to begin next month but was still in development, it added.

Mr Hunt said the national vaccine rollout was still on track to begin in late February and be completed in October, but added those timeframes would be subject to shipping, “international events” and approval of the AstraZeneca vaccine by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA).

The Federal Government expects to vaccinate 678,000 people during Phase 1a of the vaccination rollout, with vaccinations offered to quarantine and border workers, frontline healthcare workers, aged care and disability care residents and workers.

This will be followed by Phase 1b (offered to anyone over 70 years old, other healthcare workers, younger adults with an underlying condition, high-risk workers, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who are aged over 55) before Phase 2a commences for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged between 18-54, along with Australians over 50 years old and other critical high-risk workers.

The Pfizer vaccine was approved by Australia’s Therapeutic Goods Administration earlier this week.

Earlier this month, following discussions with the Federal Government, the Pharmacy Guild of Australia announced its members were set to take part in the vaccine rollout from Phase 2A.

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