Community Pharmacist Availability Reduces Influenza Burden

MAY 15, 2017
Jeannette Y. Wick, RPh, MBA, FASCP
Pharmacies are now second only to doctors offices as leading influenza vaccination locations. Unfortunately, vaccination rates are still suboptimal.

The Journal of the American Pharmacists Association has published an article that examines the relationship between pharmacist density in a neighborhood and the likelihood that members of the surrounding communities will be vaccinated for influenza.

The researchers identified a research gap about influenza vaccine in pharmacist providers when they reviewed existing studies. Most of the studies that looked at pharmacists' involvement in influenza vaccination were small and regional. They set out to look at regional impact, and compare vaccination rates to pharmacist density in communities.

Communities with high pharmacist densities were significantly more likely to have higher rates of influenza vaccination. For every increase of 1 pharmacist/1000 population, the odds of vaccination increased by 13% overall. This effect was most pronounced in neighborhoods with high concentrations of Hispanic individuals. In Hispanic communities, adding a pharmacist increased the odds of influenza vaccination by 35%.

Women, older and retired individuals, and those with a higher education were most likely to be vaccinated. Individuals with serious health problems were also more likely to be vaccinated than those in good health.

People who were insured and had good access to health care providers were 1.67 times more likely to be vaccinated.

The researchers noted that availability of pharmacists to provide influenza and other immunizations is particularly important in rural areas that are experiencing health care provider shortages. They cited an American Academy of Family Physicians report that indicates that 10% of physicians serve the 21% of Americans who live in rural areas.

This shortage is projected to worsen considerably over the next few years. However, the number of pharmacists and pharmacies has grown and many of them are located in rural areas, which presents an opportunity to close immunization gaps in these areas.

Reference

Gai Y, Feng L. Relationship between pharmacist density and adult influenzavaccination after controlling for individual and neighborhood effects. J Am Pharm Assoc (2003). 2017 May 4. pii: S1544-3191(17)30142-5; doi:10.1016/j.japh.2017.03.011. [Epub ahead of print]
 

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