6 Dec 2021

Some pharmacies criticised for charging to print vaccine passes

From Checkpoint, 5:21 pm on 6 December 2021

Rapid antigen testing is getting ready to roll out next week - but not all pharmacies will be providing it.

Thousands of people have been accessing their vaccine passports through pharmacies in recent weeks, adding to already busy workloads.

Vaccine Pass Requirement Sign

Vaccine Pass Requirement Sign Photo: RNZ / Angus Dreaver

In Whangārei, the operations manager at Kensington pharmacy Suzanne Gent said it had been a crazy time.

"We've had 100-200 people a day last week, so it's been pretty crazy and them we've also been vaccinating on Tuesdays and Thursdays and Saturdays."

She said the demand for services had been exacerbated by having fewer staff. Five of the team of 50 had left due to the vaccine mandates.

While plain print-outs of the vaccine passports here are free, across town at the Tikipunga Pharmacy there is a $10 fee for three colour copies and $4 extra for lamination.

They say for print-outs, people are welcome to go elsewhere if they are not comfortable with the cost.

Pharmaceutical Society president Professor Rhiannon Braund said that was disappointing.

"Pharmacies are being paid to provide those to patients for free, if the pharmacy chooses not to do that then that's one thing. But for them to add on an additional cost to the patient makes me feel very uncomfortable."

She said it was an incredibly busy time for pharmacies and not everyone would be rolling out rapid antigen testing when it becomes available next week.

"I don't think it'll be one of those services that every pharmacy can offer, there's certain pharmacies that will be able to implement this faster, that have maybe better workspaces around to do lots of the other more clinical things."

Braund expects pharmacies that are already delivering vaccines and Covid passes will be the ones who are best set up for the testing - and those make up around 40 percent of the country's 1000 pharmacies.

She said pharmacies were happy to play their part in the Covid response - a vital role in serving their communities.