Optometrists have been approved to prepare and administer COVID-19 vaccines in Victoria as the state government works to supercharge the jab rollout.
Optometry Victoria South Australia (OV/SA) confirmed in a communique on Friday 3 September that registered optometrists in the state would soon bolster the vaccine workforce, joining other allied health professionals such as physiotherapists, occupational therapists and podiatrists, as well as the dental and oral health workforce.
The organisation is also advocating for a further loosening of restrictions so optometrists can recommence in-person care for patients with at-risk eye disease.
It comes as new Victorian COVID-19 cases exceed 250 each day, with the government set to ease lockdown rules once single dose vaccinations reach 70% later this month.
OV/SA CEO Mr Pete Haydon said allowing optometrists to deliver COVID-19 vaccines as part of the emergency authorised surge workforce was good news and followed advocacy for the profession to be included with other health professionals in the vaccination rollout program.
“This signifies recognition of optometry as a skilled part of the primary care workforce and may help open doors for further changes to scope-of-practice,” he said.
Haydon stressed there were stringent training and compliance requirements to be able to administer vaccinations. This includes optometrists needing to register their interest and specific training.
He said vaccinations would also take place at designated government-run vaccine facilities, which meant approved optometrists would not be able to do so from their practice.
“For locums and optometrists who may find their hours reduced, or find themselves unemployed, participating in the vaccination rollout program could be a way for you to bolster your income,” Haydon added.
“We are currently investigating professional indemnity insurance arrangements for members providing this service and recommend checking in with our Optometry Advisor Help Desk before commencing work in this area.”
The Victorian Government said additional training is required for health workers, including optometrists and orthoptists, and students wanting to join Australia’s COVID-19 vaccination program as part of the new emergency authorised workforce.
For optometrists, it requires completion of the Commonwealth COVID-19 Vaccination Training Program. Additionally, practical bridging training will be provided and participants will be required to undertake competencies assessment activities.
Mandatory training (to be completed before registration):
- Victorian COVID-19 eLearning Competency – Online eLearning (three modules)
- Commonwealth COVID-19 Vaccination Training Program – nine core modules including three modules specific to each vaccine (AstraZeneca, Pfizer and Moderna).
- ‘Victorian COVID-19 AstraZeneca Supplementary eLearning.
Mandatory bridging training and skills and competencies assessment (to be verified by authorised personnel during onboarding):
Victorian COVID-19 Clinical Skills and Competencies Certificate which includes:
- Part 1: Practical bridging training*.
- Part 2: Clinical skills and competencies assessment.
*Fourth year medicine and final year nursing, midwifery and paramedicine students are not required to undertake practical bridging training but must have demonstrated competency in the administration of intermuscular injection as assessed by their education provider
With lockdown conditions prevailing across Victoria, Haydon said optometrists were still only able to care for urgent cases in the practice.
However, OV/SA is continuing to advocate for the return to essential care for the management of disease like diabetic retinopathy and glaucoma where patients are currently being managed remotely via telehealth.
“We are getting to a point now with repeated lockdowns where practitioners saying the situation is getting problematic for their health of their patients,” he said.
“So, we are actively working with our government contacts advocating for a return to essential care because we know optometrists are very COVID safe. Even though we work in close proximity to patients, we have a great record with PPE and sanitation methods, so we are very confident we can deliver essential care right now.
“Being able to do that sooner rather than later will improve the eye health of the community, as well as help optometrists to safely see more patients as we prepare, ultimately, to transition back to routine care.”