Administering vaccines

Vaccines are prescription only (Schedule 4) medicines. This means that they generally require a doctor’s prescription and must be dispensed by a pharmacist.

To prevent spread of infectious diseases, it is important to ensure as much of the community as possible is vaccinated. For this reason some special rules are in place, so that a prescription is not always required to administer a vaccine.

Vaccines are generally safe but can cause adverse effects and do require appropriate health practitioner oversight. Health practitioners administering vaccines are responsible for adhering to professional standards, maintaining personal competence and ensuring patient safety.

Administering vaccines

The Medicines and Poisons Regulations allow for the administration of a vaccine by a health practitioner without a medical practitioner’s prescription in the following cases.

Who When What
Table 1: Administering vaccines without prescription
Registered nurses
Working at a medical practice Vaccines specified in the SASA SASA issued by Medical Practitioner

Working for a Medical Treatment Permit Holder Vaccines specified in the SASA SASA issued by Health Organisation

Working for:

  • WA Health
  • Local Government
  • Prison
  • Aboriginal Health Council or Aboriginal Health Service

Vaccines for:

  • Standard immunisation schedule
  • Occupational Health and Safety of Health Practitioners
  • Pertussis
  • Measles

SASA issued by the Department of Health
Registered midwives
Working for WA Health

Vaccines specified in the SASA including:

  • Pertussis
  • Influenza

SASA issued by the Department of Health
Registered pharmacists At a community pharmacy Influenza vaccine SASA issued by the Department of Health
Authority and training

The authority conferred under a SASA issued by the CEO of Health replaces the past exemptions, Regulations and vaccine Codes under the now repealed Poisons Regulations 1965.

Practitioners working under SASA issued by the Department of Health are expected to have completed additional specialist immunisation training as outlined in the conditions to the Arrangement. Other routine conditions for all practitioners working under these Arrangements include:

  • compliance with the Australian Immunisation Handbook
  • ensuring cold chain of vaccines is maintained
  • obtaining informed consent for patients
  • keeping clinical records of all vaccines administered
  • reporting all adverse events.
Public Health Programs

There are a number of public health vaccination programs run across WA to immunise:

  • Indigenous patients
  • prisoners
  • pregnant women
  • children

These are authorised under Arrangements that allow registered nurses and midwives with approved training to immunise according to the WA immunisation Schedule, or in certain endemic circumstances. Immunisation provider information and resources are also available.

Immunisation in pharmacies

Pharmacists may administer influenza vaccines to adults, without a prescription. WA poisons legislation supports this initiative via a Structured Administration and Supply Arrangement (SASA) (Word 89KB). Pharmacists must have completed an approved course of immunisation training. The pharmacy must also meet minimum standards and equipment must be present to treat anaphylaxis and other serious adverse reactions.

Pharmacists are to advise the patient’s regular medial practitioner after immunisation.

Some pharmacies utilise the services of a medical or nurse practitioner for vaccination. In these cases Pharmacies involved in hosting a vaccine service should adhere to guidelines issued by the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia (external site).

Immunisation in the workplace

There are now many mobile immunisation services that will come to the workplace to administer vaccines. These businesses required a Health Services Permit to supply vaccines.  A medical practitioner working for the service can authorise nurses to administer vaccines through use of a Health Organisation SASA. Copies must be provided to the Department of Health.

The immunisation provider must meet minimum standards of care to ensure:

  • legal authorisation of practitioners;
  • appropriate training and competence;
  • secure purchase and storage of vaccines;
  • cold chain integrity;
  • patient safety - including consent, infection control, assessment and after care;
  • management and reporting of adverse effects;
  • clinical record keeping.
Cold chain

Vaccines must be stored at the correct temperature at each stage of storage and supply (termed cold chain) to ensure they do not lose effectiveness.

All immunisation providers should meet ‘Strive for 5’ vaccine storage guidelines (external site).

Record keeping

Administration of any prescription medicine to a patient must be recorded in in the patient’s personal medical notes. The treating practitioner must record the:

  • patient name and address (if nor already in the notes)
  • medicine name, strength and form
  • quantity administered
  • date and time of administration

These records must be kept for two years and produced for inspection if requested by the Department of Health.

More information

Medicines and Poisons Regulation Branch
Mailing address: PO Box 8172, Perth Business Centre, WA 6849
Phone: 9222 6883