Scientists are predicting that 1 popular area for new treatments will be the development of vaccines. Could the preferred treatment for gastric ulcers be a Helicobacter pylori vaccine? If infectious agents prove to be a cause of some chronic diseases, maybe vaccine therapy will become a more frequent choice of treatment.
Whether this science progresses quickly, the impact on many of us is still open for debate. However, there also is a great deal of evidence that we are not using our current vaccines appropriately. For example, influenza has a significant morbidity and mortality rate, but many at high risk still fail to get an immunization. A similar case can be made for pneumococcal disease. It is responsible for killing more people in the United States each year than all other combined vaccine-preventable diseases. Many of these deaths would be prevented by the appropriate use of the pneumococcal vaccine.
Does vaccine therapy represent a role for pharmacy? Pharmacists can have a positive influence on immunization rates. That is why state pharmacy associations are promoting legislation to allow pharmacists to administer immunizations, and why pharmacy schools and professional organizations are teaching and certifying pharmacists in giving vaccines. Studies have documented an increase in vaccination rates after pharmacists become involved in administering immunizations.
If pharmacists are more than ?counters, pourers, lickers, and stickers,? and are involved health professionals, this arena of increasing immunization rates should get your attention. Have you suggested to ?at risk? patients the value of getting immunized? Some patients will listen and take action when you do. Furthermore, when you offer patients the convenience of receiving the immunization right at the pharmacy, more will comply.
Finally, the aftermath of September 11 has made bioterrorism a concern, and the smallpox vaccination has become a hotly debated topic. As an informed health professional, you can offer advice to your patients and volunteer to help out as a community resource, if mass immunization occurs. Perhaps you may be getting the smallpox vaccine so you are able to serve the public, if a smallpox outbreak occurs. Yes, a vaccine may very well be in your future because you get immunized, you administer an immunization, or you recommend immunization.
Fred M. Eckel, RPh, MS
Professor and Director
Office of Practice Development and Education
School of Pharmacy
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill