Do Parents Accept Community Pharmacists as Immunization Providers?

AUGUST 10, 2017
Jeannette Y. Wick, RPh, MBA, FASCP
Human papilloma virus (HPV) is the most prevalent sexually transmitted infection in the United States, with 14 million new cases annually.

Individuals aged 9 to 26 years old can receive 1 of 3 HPV vaccines: Gardasil, Gardasil 9 (Merck) or Cervarix (GlaxoSmithKline). These protect against up to 9 different strains, including the 2 that prevail in 70% of cervical cancer cases. A problem lies in the fact that HPV vaccination rates currently fall well below the 80% national objective, with less than 50% of adolescents completing the 2- or 3-dose series (depending on age at time of first dose).

Studies in Alabama and North Carolina have proven that a health care provider's recommendation influences parents' decisions to vaccinate their children. The journal Papillomavirus Research has published a study further investigating barriers to vaccine adherence. It shows that educating parents to accept pharmacists as immunizers increases the likelihood that an adolescent will complete the HPV series. 

Pharmacist-immunizers may have a greater ability to influence HPV vaccination decisions than physicians in primary care settings, given their walk-in community placement. The study researchers concluded that when physicians proactively recommended indicated vaccines and patients recognized pharmacists as accessible providers, immunization rates increased.

The researchers suggested that physicians give the initial dose of a vaccine, then write a prescription for a community pharmacist to administer subsequent doses. This was most valuable in school-aged children given the hours and accessibility of a community pharmacy are better than in a primary care office.

It is imperative to address parental concerns about vaccine adverse effects and educate them on the importance of preventing disease, according to the study researchers. Community pharmacists can advocate for their profession, educating patients on pharmacy immunization training while helping to improve interprofessional relationships and developing rapport with patients.

A primary concern among parents in this study was the pharmacists’ ability to keep accurate, complete immunization records. Only 35% of pharmacies report vaccination records to a state or local immunization registry.

Health care providers have a common goal: preventing disease in patients. Pharmacies should create clear procedures and explain to patients how they report immunizations to physician’s offices and state immunization databases. These steps will help parents accept community pharmacists as immunization providers for their children, increasing vaccination rates and avoiding transmission of vaccine-preventable diseases.

Reference

Westrick SC, Hohmann LA, McFarland SJ, Teeter BS, White KK, Hastings TJ. Parental acceptance of human papillomavirus vaccinations and community pharmacies as vaccination settings: A qualitative study in Alabama. Papillomavirus Res. 2017;3:24-29.

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A Fast, Easy Way to Inform Parents About Vaccinations

Officials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have prepared an informational video on this topic.

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