The fall 2023 flu and COVID vaccine campaigns were exceptional. Community pharmacists are the primary vaccine provider for these two very important campaigns. In the first weeks of the campaign, community pharmacies hit record numbers of vaccinations, and by Dec. 31, 2023, delivered more than 2.3 million COVID-19 and flu vaccines.
In addition, many pharmacies also offered respiratory syncytial virus immunization. It is not lost on anyone that pharmacists are delivering record immunizations, even while dispensing an increased number of prescriptions and providing minor ailments and contraception services (MACS).
In December, Premier David Eby announced that nearly 300,000 British Columbians have already benefitted from free contraceptives and minor ailments. The access the public has gained to much-needed care is so important, but I know it hasn’t been easy. It seems that the needs of patients and demands on pharmacists continues to grow.
Overall, that is a good thing. But the strain put on the profession and business of pharmacy is made more difficult as a result of the lack of a dispensing fee increase since 2011. I know this is a foundational element of pharmacy operations and viability. Like other businesses the impact of COVID and inflation have added an additional burden. While it’s true that the high rate of immunizations and MACS has added revenue to pharmacies, this is new money for new work that requires additional staffing. So, there is no getting around the fact that a dispensing fee is long overdue.
I couldn’t agree more and share in your frustration that we haven’t been able to make this happen. It is not for a lack of trying. This is an issue we raise all the time and in recent months I have been encouraged that there appears to be a willingness to pursue this conversation. I hope to soon be in a position to confirm that government is willing to begin formal discussions about a much needed increase to the dispensing fee.
I also know that the pressures of third-party payers, notably Express Scripts Canada’s imposition of a new adjudication fee, further compound the pressure pharmacies face. The BCPhA has joined together with other provincial associations and CPhA to explore opportunities to contest this move.
But despite all of this I remain optimistic. Pharmacy has taken centre stage in terms of the professions ability to meet the needs in a crisis. First COVID and now the primary care crisis. Time and time again pharmacists rise to the occasion. I know this demonstrates that pharmacists can and should do more.
This is the year to press hard to more opportunities. This will be the focus of your Association.
Chief Executive Officer
BC Pharmacy Association