With immunization awareness month approaching in August, NCPA would like to highlight the recent praise of pharmacists by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for their efforts to increase immunization rates.
CDC’s letter to pharmacists stated, “Pharmacists and community vaccinators are uniquely positioned to promote and provide vaccines to people in a wide range of communities. In addition, their extensive reach into diverse communities allows greater access to vaccines to those who may not have a medical home, and who traditionally have had lower rates of vaccines use.”
Pharmacists are one of the most accessible health care providers and are therefore able to play a key role in promoting the importance of immunization. Pharmacists also offer educational counsel that often times may not take place while immunizing in the doctor office.
CDC’s letter also outlined specific recommendations to help pharmacists continue raising immunization rates in their communities. The recommendations were as follows:
- Increase awareness among patients about recommended vaccines, especially for adults and adolescents where vaccination rates are lagging.
- Ensure that the people who visit your pharmacies or clinics are aware of which vaccinations they need by assessing their vaccine needs and offering those vaccines.
- For patients with certain medical conditions, recommend and offer vaccinations specifically recommended based on their high risk conditions.
- Enter adult immunizations into vaccine registries in states where this is possible and provide documentation to the patient and/or their primary care provider to ensure appropriate recording of immunizations.
- Partner with state and local health departments, immunization coalition, medical providers, and others in your communities to increase collaboration and outreach to those who need vaccines.
Community pharmacists are quickly embracing this new way to serve in the healthcare profession and the number of pharmacists obtaining the necessary certification has been steadily increasing. In fact, many of today’s pharmacy students are graduating with a lifetime certification and eagerness to partake in immunization services.
As of 2009, all 50 states allow pharmacists to administer vaccinations; however, pharmacists still face some challenges when it comes to performing this service. Pharmacists are sometimes limited in the vaccines they are able to give either by regulations of the State Board of Pharmacies or low availability of certain vaccines. Additionally, some insurance plans do not cover immunization through a pharmacy.
Regardless of the barriers, pharmacist would like the rights to perform this service and the decision ultimately lies with state boards. A letter to state boards from the Department of Health and Human Services recognizing certified pharmacists as trained professionals in vaccinations may serve to further the role of pharmacists and immunizations.
NCPA appreciates the recognition from CDC of pharmacists as a critical provider of immunizations. We will continue to encourage members to offer immunizations as an important public health service and to increase awareness among patients about getting recommended vaccines, particularly with the back-to-school period flu season preparation around the corner.
Immunization resources are extensively available through organizations such as NCPA, APhA, CDC, and Immunization Action Coalition who provide CE related to immunization to remain credentialed in the states opinion. More information is available from the Immunization Resource Center.