The University of Western Australia’s Dr Sandra Salter has been named 2021 University of Technology Sydney Joint Innovative Pharmacist of the Year for developing a world-first pharmacy-linked vaccine safety surveillance system, which is now being used to monitor COVID-19 vaccines.
First presented in 2012 the award, which is sponsored by AstraZeneca, recognises those in the profession who are redefining pharmacy and includes $5000 towards professional development.
“I believe the future for pharmacists is really bright – it's all about continuing to innovate and finding smarter ways of doing things.”Dr Sandra Salter
A senior lecturer and researcher in the Pharmacy Division of UWA’s School of Allied Health, Dr Salter was honoured at a gala dinner in Sydney for her ground-breaking idea to monitor adverse events following immunisation in pharmacies in near real-time, following up on patients in the days after they’ve been vaccinated.
She said she was thrilled with the recognition for her pioneering system, which uses secure cloud technology and an application programming interface to link pharmacy vaccinations to the smartphone-based tool SmartVax, and which followed a horror 2019 flu season in Australia.
“In line with that, the government changed the laws so that pharmacists could give flu vaccinations to children from the age of 10 and I realised that we didn’t have a program in Australia for monitoring vaccine safety from pharmacies,” Dr Salter said.
Working in collaboration with MedAdvisor and SmartVax, Dr Salter and her team developed and then piloted the scheme which links data on adverse events from patients directly to AusVaxSafety, Australia’s active vaccine safety surveillance system, as well as back to the pharmacists themselves.
“It’s fully automated, so there’s no increase in workload for the pharmacist, as well as being adaptable and rapidly scalable and could be used to monitor any vaccine – meaning that if there’s a problem, it can be quickly identified and action taken,” Dr Salter said.
Image: Dr Sandra Salter and her award. Photo credit: Maja Baska Photography.
The 2020 pilot study monitored adverse events reported after influenza vaccination in pharmacies and in 2021/22 the technology allowed for the scrutinising of the safety of COVID-19 vaccines given in pharmacies, which was critical to the national program, as one vaccine in particular was exclusively administered by pharmacists.
Dr Salter said a highlight of the project had been involving students from UWA’s Master of Pharmacy in both the original pilot study and later stages of development.
“We take students into our program who come from all manner of undergraduate backgrounds and through metamorphis turn them into incredible young health professionals who have a passion for pharmacy and for looking after the community,” she said.
“I believe the future for pharmacists is really bright – it's all about continuing to innovate and finding smarter ways of doing things.”
The founder of telehealth pharmacy service PharmOnline Anna Barwick shared the award with Dr Salter.