Amid all the tensions and news that we keep hearing about COVID-19, one pharmacist couple based in Adelaide brought some relief to public when they decided to offer free flu vaccines to  anyone who could not afford to vaccinate due to lack of subsidised benefits collaborating with multicultural communities to come up with effective ways to create awareness and ensure that these communities stay well protected.

Irfan Hashmi and Sobia based in Adelaide are both pharmacists of Pakistani origins. They moved to Australia in 2003 as students.

After completing their requirements to be Australian Registered Pharmacists, Irfan got his first job in rural Australia. His exposure helped him identify the need of pharmacies in rural and remote towns where people had to travel long distances to get medications.

He successfully opened pharmacies from scratch in Port Pirie, Coober Pedy, Orroroo and Quorn. Some of these towns had no pharmacy at all.

Today, they own six pharmacies in regional South Australia and Victoria.

During pandemic, Irfan decided to go above and beyond and do something more for the community that was mentally and emotionally stressed.

Providing free flu vaccines was something that offered not just relief to the public but it also contributed in reduction of burden on the GPs and hospitals as flu in Australia can lead to hospitalisation.

Irfan Hashmi excitedly commented on his achievements while serving the diverse Australian community:

“When you do something different, there are always things you learn along the way.”

“We realised the strong power of our multicultural in-house staff who helped us reach smaller communities by translating our flyers in different languages, including Hindi, Punjabi, Urdu, Farsi, Mandarin, Nepalese, Gujarati, Malay, Arabic, Filipino, Sinhala, Bangla, Greek and Pashto.”

“These flyers were circulated in more than 60 social and networking groups of community associations based in South Australia with the help of people-to-people connections.”

“This multicultural and multilingual twist to our communication ensured inclusivity and a very comfortable experience for our customers who felt more connected and involved.”

TerryWhite Chemmart Cumberland Park Pharmacy not only welcomed walk ins for free vaccination but, Irfan’s team also set up off-site flu clinics at mosques, offices, temples and community centres in the bid to ensure that even those who have never done vaccination before learn about it and get it done.

These clinics proved to be insightful not just for those who benefited from it but, for also benefited the pharmacists as well.

Lessons learned during this process could be used to enhance community knowledge and understanding of common avoidable diseases.

In future, Irfan plans to focus more on communities that are most vulnerable due to cultural and language barriers by keeping a multicultural team that is more sensitive to cultural specific attitudes in this industry.