Fabian Demicoli

GRTU clarifies the situation regarding this year’s Influenza vaccine campaign

GRTU reacts to the report appearing on the Times of today 5th January 2005
· GRTU clarifies the situation regarding this year’s Influenza vaccine campaign.
· GRTU appeals to the Ministry of Health to work in harmony with the private pharmacies in the Community

GRTU reacts to the report appearing on the Times of today 5th January 2005
· GRTU clarifies the situation regarding this year’s Influenza vaccine campaign.
· GRTU appeals to the Ministry of Health to work in harmony with the private pharmacies in the Community

GRTU as the National organization representing the owners of Mltaof private pharmacies in the community wishes to react to the report published today in the Times entitled “ Uptake of flu Jab lower than expected”.

Dr. Tanya Melillo, Chairman of the National Influenza Pandemic Standing Committee has claimed that uptake of the influenza vaccine was lower than expected. GRTU wishes to point out that this year, Pharmacy owners reported a larger than usual uptake of vaccines from the general public, including those who are over 55 years of age or whom are deemed at most risk. GRTU is surprised by the statement made by Dr Melillo in this respect.

GRTU also wishes to point out that although government ordered a large number of vaccines; take up of these vaccines was not as heavy as expected. Instead of consulting with the stakeholders, that is, Pharmacy owners, on how best to work together to increase take up, a decision was taken to offer these vaccines for sale from Government Health Centres in direct competition to pharmacy owners, who were already heavily stocked with vaccines. Through the direct intervention of GRTU, one of GRTU’s members took the initiative to sell these superfluous vaccines abroad thus ensuring that the uncalled for intervention of government in the free market would not cause damage to all pharmacy owners who had stocks of vaccine for sale.

The National Influenza Committee actions nonetheless, caused great difficulties to private pharmacy owners as people started going to buy their vaccine from Government clinics as no doctor’s fee is charged there for vaccination with the result that some pharmacies have been left facing losses because they still hold a stock of vaccines. Vaccines typically have a very short expiry date, and the stock in Malta expires round about April 2006. The action of the Ministry will be causing private owners of pharmacies who cooperated fully with the national campaign to suffer unnecessary financial losses caused by the Government’s action.

GRTU contends that the sale of any pharmaceuticals, of which vaccines are a part, by the government health centres is in direct breach of the Medicines Act 2003. That a Government Department sees fit to enter in direct competition with the private pharmacies to sell surplus vaccines is simply not acceptable. GRTU will seek the support of EuroCommerce in Brussels to challenge the Maltese authorities with the European Commission should this direct market intervention by Government continues to happen.

Dr. Melillo also states that doctors have been left with stocks of vaccines booked by their patients and not taken up. Whilst sympathising with these individuals, GRTU stated from the outset that no one except pharmacies are allowed by law to stock and dispense medicines, and that the sale of pharmaceuticals by doctors is in breach of the Medicines Act 2003. Although an attempt to legalise this issue was made by the Health. The Ministry preferred to disregard GRTU’s advise on this matter even though GRTU pre-warned of the negative impact of this wrong decision.

GRTU wishes to state that any further breach for whatever reason by the Health Department of the Medicines Act 2003, except where necessary in the case of a National Emergency, will be met with industrial action by both pharmacy owners, their employees and other stakeholders in this issue. GRTU continues to hold the Ministry responsible for the commercial consequences of its market intervention decisions.

GRTU regrets, but strongly objects, to the confrontational attitude being taken by the Health Department on every issue that directly affects the other important stakeholders in health services to the community.

GRTU strongly urges the Ministry of Health to work hand in hand with the stakeholders, especially with the owners of private pharmacies in the community. The Ministry of Health should steer away from creating unnecessary strife in areas where the public expect harmony. The public is better served by agreed joint actions rather than by authoritarian impositions.

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