Optimizing Vaccine Opportunities

FEBRUARY 19, 2018
As pharmacists, a big part of our job is to really be proactive. One way we can help patients be proactive is to make sure that they have received their required vaccinations and utilize opportunities to immunize our patients. We can do this not only at drop-off but at pickup.

As a passionate community pharmacist I have now changed the way I verify prescriptions, as I now look at the patient’s age and force a consultation at pick-up if the patient is a candidate for a shingles or pneumonia vaccine. After speaking with the patient I make a note in their profile noting if they already received it or if they declined, this way I know not to ask again if I had already reached out. This tactic definitely adds a lot more work to your load but will provide your patients with excellent care, making sure that they are up to date and will also increase your stores vaccinations numbers. If a pharmacist talks to a patient and educates them about why they need that vaccination, they are more likely to follow through with it.

Many patients I’ve recently talked to have been unaware that several vaccinations were even available at the pharmacy, as many of them were under the impression that pharmacists only administered the influenza vaccine.

As pharmacists hopefully move toward providers status in all states and begin to have a more prominent role as being a vital part of the health care team, I feel as it is important that we really make our mark and show not only legislators but also patients how much we can contribute, which is why we deserve more authority (prescriber status, etc.).  

As pharmacists, we can do our own personal screening to determine whether or not the patient may be a candidate for an immunization offered at the pharmacy. Age is obviously an indicator for several vaccinations but we can also look at other medications on the patient's profile to get an idea of what kind of health conditions the patient might have, which can then lead us to another opportunity, for example the Pneumovax 23 is indicated for patients with certain conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, lung disease including asthma, etc.

A patient may also be visibly pregnant or have it noted on the profile, which would then prompt us to ask the patient if she had received Tdap yet as it is recommended for each pregnancy. During that encounter we can also mention to that patient that when the baby arrives it is recommended that all close contacts such as the father, the grandparents, or anyone who would be around the infant a lot is also required to receive the Tdap as well as this would protect her baby from several different conditions including whooping cough, which made its comeback in 2012 due to the lack of immunizations. During a transaction, whether it’s at drop-off or pickup or even a phone call, small talk is made.

In the summertime, this can give us another opportunity as we can ask the patient if they plan to travel anywhere although I have seen many situations where the patient will bring this topic up on their own. We can then refer to the pink/yellow book or our own knowledge on what vaccination would that patient be indicated for depending on where the person is traveling. Many areas require vaccine prophylaxis against diseases such as malaria if traveling out of the country.

In summary, vaccinations are a big part of our jobs, which tend to be diminished or overlooked except during influenza season. We should remember to look for patients who are eligible to receive vaccinations all year round and utilize every opportunity we have to keep patients up-to date on their immunizations while continuing to be proactive. Vaccines prevent patients from acquiring serious and potentially fatal diseases so with that in mind, we should be prompting and successfully administering at least one vaccination on a weekly bias if not more.

Shelby Leheny, Pharm D, B.S
Shelby Leheny, Pharm D, B.S
Shelby Leheny received her Doctor of Pharmacy Degree from Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine (LECOM) and her Bachelor's of Science degree at the University of Pittsburgh. She is a pharmacist at CVS.
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