We, the European Association of Pharmacy Technicians, understand that Pharmacy Technicians across Europe are working extremely hard in this continuing challenging time for us all right now, ensuring that patients have timely access to their medicines and the pharmaceutical care they need. We acknowledge that the social and economic impact of Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic continues to affect us all.
A constantly changing situation across Europe creates uncertainty but since the start of the pandemic, teams of scientists across the world have been working to develop the vaccines we now have to administer against the virus.
Pharmacy Technicians across Europe are at the forefront of the vaccination roll out, whether that be actually injecting patients, drawing up and preparing the injections or working within multidisciplinary teams supporting the operational organisation of the vaccination programmes.
The EAPT Board send again their heartfelt thanks to all pharmacy technicians, not just in Europe but across the world, for their continued professionalism and commitment to helping healthcare teams to combat this virus. This be wherever they work, either in hospital pharmacies or community pharmacies, either on the frontline working with patients or working behind the scenes helping with vaccine stock ordering, storage and distribution to the vaccination sites. We are extremely grateful to you all.
As in our message last year, we do hope that you are staying safe and healthy and looking after your own mental health and wellbeing, so that you can continue to deliver pharmacy services in this time of international need.
EAPT salute you and support your invaluable role; we stand together with you.
Sincerest best wishes
One of our main goals is to promote the Pharmacy Technician profession to the layman and students of High School for Health Professions.
This is why we launched the webpage www.farmaceutickyasistent.cz (pharmacy technician) which details the role, competencies and study possibilities for Pharmacy Technicians in the Czech Republic.
We asked School Principals to distribute leaflets and inform their students about the Pharmacy Technician profession. Czech Chamber of Pharmacy Assistants/Technicians were also involved as qualified representatives of their field.
Our hope is to introduce the Pharmacy Technician profession as interesting, attractive, professional, progressive and a very important part of the healthcare system.
Hospital pharmacies play a key role in the distribution of coronavirus vaccines from BioNTech and Pfizer. In addition, hospital pharmacy technicians are helping with the drawing up of vaccine doses for vaccinating healthcare professionals at hospitals.
By: Kristin Rosmo
Just before Christmas Norwegians learned that the first EMA-approved vaccines were on their way to the country, more specifically the Comirnaty mRNA vaccine from BioNTech and Pfizer. This provided the population with renewed hope for better days ahead. And the hospital pharmacies were given new distribution and production tasks.
The Norwegian Ministry of Health and Care Services has awarded the Norwegian Institute of Public Health (FHI) overall responsibility for the country’s national coronavirus vaccination plan. This also includes the distribution of the vaccines. The distribution of the Comirnaty vaccine from BioNTech and Pfizer is particularly challenging since it needs be stored at -90ºC to -60ºC throughout the supply chain.
The FHI has entered into an agreement with Norway’s four hospital pharmacy companies relating to the reception, storage, delivery and distribution of the vaccine to municipalities and health enterprises. Knut Jønsrud, Head of the FHI’s Vaccine Supply Unit, believes that cooperation with hospital pharmacies is going well. "We are engaged in a close, ongoing dialogue about improvements in these processes. Hospital pharmacies have had a positive attitude about this and have been solution-oriented throughout," says Mr. Jønsrud.
Tore Prestegard, the Managing Director of Sykehusapotekene HF, has signed the agreement on behalf of all four hospital pharmacy companies. "Cooperation with the FHI is good and constructive. The agreement ensures that the quality of the vaccines is taken care of from the time they arrive in Norway and right up until they are delivered to municipalities and health enterprises throughout the country," says Mr. Prestegard.
One of the hospital pharmacies which is involved in the agreement is the hospital pharmacy at the Oslo University Hospital, Ullevål (Sykehusapoteket Oslo, Ullevål). This news was broadcast to the "whole of Norway" on Boxing Day last year. That was when the very first doses of the Comirnaty vaccine from BioNTech and Pfizer were delivered to Norway. The vaccines were received under the watchful eyes of a large press and security contingent by Pharmacy Technician and Departmental Product Flow Manager, Samira Benaissa, and her colleagues. They were immediately placed in one of the two ultrafreezers which had been purchased by the hospital pharmacy in connection with their cooperation with the FHI. "The FHI’s mission is eminently suitable for our core values: knowledgeable, generous and responsible. We are proud and humbled to be able to carry out this honourable mission," she says.
Ms. Benaissa has nearly 20 years of professional experience as a pharmacy technician, the last 14 years of which have been served with hospital pharmacies. However, a task involving this type of special handling was new to both her and the 50 other employees in her department. "However, receiving the vaccine went just fine. We had been preparing for this for a few weeks, and we simply adhered precisely to the procedures,” she explains.
The BioNTech and Pfizer vaccines are stored in dry ice during transport. Ms. Benaissa and her colleagues must therefore wear protective equipment during reception. The hospital pharmacies have created their own reception form on which they note the time of receipt and when the transport packaging is opened.
After the packaging and temperature upon receipt have been checked and logged, they break a "temp-tag" that has accompanied the vaccines throughout the transport chain. They then remove the dry ice, check the number of packages and batch numbers and visually check that everything is intact. "This work requires concentration and efficiency, because the vaccines should placed in the ultrafreezer within five minutes of the transport packaging being opened," says Ms. Benaissa.
The reception form is sent to the FHI along with the temp tag, and the vaccines are quarantined in a separate zone in the ultrafreezer until the FHI releases the batches. The FHI issues weekly lists showing which municipalities and health trusts they will be distributing the vaccines to. These lists specify exactly how many doses are being delivered. The vaccines arrived on trays with 195 vials and it is often necessary to split the trays. “We have to be extremely careful to ensure that the fragile vials do not touch each other and break. However, at the same time we have to be quick, because we only have three minutes before the trays have to be back in the ultrafreezer. Trays cannot be taken out again for at least two hours,” explains the experienced pharmacy technician.
The fight against the clock continues when the vials which are to be prepared for onward distribution are removed from the ultrafreezer. The vials have to be labelled with the date and time of removal and placed in a fridge within half an hour. "We are the last link in the supply chain with ultrafreezers. Once the vaccines have been removed from the ultrafreezers they have to be stored at fridge temperature and used within five days. Their onward transport from the hospital pharmacy is organised by the FHI,” she explains.
Pharmacy Technician and Departmental Product Flow Manager, Samira Benaissa, needs to concentrate when handling the BioNTech and Pfizer vaccines. Photo: Mariell Midtbø Bøyum
In addition to the distribution agreement with the FHI, Sykehusapotekene HF is also involved in vaccinating healthcare professionals at hospitals. Several of the hospital pharmacies in the company have assisted "their" hospital with the drawing up the Comirnaty vaccine from BioNTech and Pfizer in connection with vaccinations.
According to the Head of Communications at Sykehusapotekene HF, Camilla Shalchian-Tabrizi, the hospital pharmacies had to quickly establish a method for removing six doses from each vial after they received the request to help with such. "Many people involved in our production team worked together on this, not least our pharmacy technicians. We rapidly established a best practice that ensured good quality and the stable withdrawal of six doses. We are proud about having been given this task and about how we have solved it," she says.
Østfold Hospital is one of the hospitals that has chosen such cooperation with the hospital pharmacy. Since January, Pharmacy Technician Lene Skau Qvam has helped with mixing and drawing up the vaccines when vaccinating healthcare professionals at the hospital.
She works daily in the Production Department at the hospital pharmacy in Kalnes, Østfold. She has been working there for more than 19 years on the production of chemotherapy, pain pumps, parenteral nutrition and single doses, as well as undertaking logistics work. She is also responsible for training the department’s 17 pharmacy technicians. "It feels good to be able to contribute directly to vaccination work. Due to the vaccine’s short shelf life after the syringes have been drawn up, we have to sit in the actual vaccination room when we do this," she says.
Specifically, they mix one Comirnaty vial with 1.8 ml of NaCl and draw up six doses of 0.3 ml each. "We are well acquainted with this type of work due to our daily work in the Production Department," says Ms. Skau Qvam. The difference now is that others have now become slightly more aware of this. It’s fun to be able to show off a bit and make use of our expertise now during the coronavirus pandemic. I feel that we are making a great contribution and helping to take some pressure off our nurses," says Ms. Skau Qvam.
Pharmacy Technician Lene Skau Qvam and her colleagues at the Production Department of the hospital pharmacy at Østfold Hospital, Kalnes, helping to mix and draw up coronavirus vaccines for vaccinating the hospital’s healthcare professionals. Photo: Elisabeth Pichler
The European Association of Pharmacy Technicians (EAPT) are delighted to announce the date of the 2021 annual meeting. The meeting will take place on Wednesday 12st May 2021 and due to the ongoing Covid 19 pandemic will be a virtual meeting hosted by Portugal on Zoom.
Although we will miss seeing our country members in person, following the success of our recent Zoom meetings, we have decided to use this virtual video conferencing technology to bring us together and to share the wealth of news and updates from our national countries. The EAPT Board continue to meet virtually and are now thrilled to be planning the programme for our May annual meeting. Alongside all of the interesting conversations between our countries, the invaluable Pharmacy Technician input into rolling out mass national coronavirus vaccination programmes will be high on our agenda.
We, the European Association of Pharmacy Technicians, acknowledge that the COVID-19 pandemic poses major risks to the health of national populations across the world and this is a human tragedy. These are difficult and unprecedented times and pharmacy teams are at the forefront of the crisis, going above and beyond to ensure patients receive their medicines.
The EAPT Board would wholeheartedly like to thank pharmacy technicians across Europe, and the globe, for all of their hard work and professionalism shown when meeting the current demands in extremely pressured conditions. We are exceedingly grateful to all who are working long hours and working differently in challenging circumstances, both in community and hospital pharmacies, either on the front line or behind the scenes.
We do hope that you are all safe and healthy and thank you for your continued commitment to delivering pharmacy services and putting patients first at this time of international need.
Please do stay safe and know that we are in this together.
Sincerest best wishes
The EAPT Meeting 2020 will not take place in Zagreb, Croatia in April.
We will be looking for a new date, dependent on the COVID-19 pandemic situation.
The meeting 2019 held in April, was in the beautiful city of Stockholm, Sweden and was hosted by Farmaciforbundet, the Department of Pharmacy and Health; part of the Swedish Unionen.
As usual, the meeting was lively, exhilarating and full of discussion, networking, exploring our differences, recognising our similarities and sharing our experiences on many topics related to pharmacy technicians, pharmacy practice and national policies. We were nine countries Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Norway, Portugal, Slovenia, Sweden and United Kingdom, all giving and sharing national updates and participating in the work of EAPT.
The Association of Pharmacy Technicians UK (APTUK) continued membership of the European Association of Pharmacy Technicians (EAPT).
The APTUK President, Liz Fidler, and the Board of Directors has recently met to review and agree the Associations’ annual key priorities and made the difficult decision to withdraw the continuing membership with EAPT and have not renewed for 2019/2020.
The Board acknowledges the significant input by Tess Fenn (APTUK Past President & EAPT Secretary) and previous APTUK representatives. The APTUK Board has indicated will keep EAPT on the agenda and review the position in 2020 as APTUK strengthens.
EAPT would like to take this opportunity to thank the UK and APTUK for their support over the last 20 + years and their invaluable contribution to the inception of our Pharmacy Technician European collaboration through to the setup of the Committee of European Pharmacy Technicians (CEPT) and our current registered organisation EAPT in 2010.
In Portugal, community pharmacies will be allowed to perform point-of-care tests for the detection of HIV infection and viral hepatitis (B and C) without the need for a previous medical prescription.
The Ministry of Health authorised the use of devices for these rapid tests in pharmacies and also in pathology laboratories to reduce the “rate of late diagnosis of HIV/AIDS in Portugal is "highest" in the European Union.”
Likewise, to other biochemical and physiological parameters already evaluated in pharmacies network (such as diabetes, cholesterol or PSA), these rapid screening tests will allow increasing earlier detection of these diseases. In about 15 minutes, patients could have access to the results that should always have to be confirmed later if they are reactive (positive). This measure will allow early identification of cases of infection and will eventually contribute to reducing social stigma.
The National competent authority – INFARMED IP - is now publishing the necessary guidelines to start these tests, safeguarding confidentiality and privacy and providing appropriate information by health professionals – “who will have training for counselling before and after the test and appropriate referral”, referred the office to the national press.
The adherence of pharmacies to perform these tests is voluntary.