August Is National Immunization Awareness Month

AUGUST 16, 2017


National Immunization Awareness Month (NIAM) is observed every August to bring attention to the importance of vaccinating people of all ages.1

Immunizations are one of the most valuable contributions the overall human health and safety in modern times. They prevent people from getting serious illnesses or complications from those illnesses that just under a century ago may have meant certain death or long-term morbidity.

Pharmacists have been training in the administration and education of vaccines since 1996 when the nationally recognized immunization delivery program was created by the American Pharmacists Association (APhA).
2 Initially, pharmacists were only allowed to administer vaccines in a limited number of states and even then, only a small number of vaccines were authorized for pharmacist immunization. Today, pharmacists can administer vaccines in all 50 states and are able to give most available vaccines.2

The accessibility and availability of pharmacists enable patients to receive immunizations at a time when it is most convenient for them. The massive presence of pharmacies throughout urban cities and small towns allows for quick and easy access to health care professionals who are not only drug specialists, but are also experts on vaccines.

When patients visit a pharmacy to pick up medications, snacks, or on sale holiday candy, they may also use that time to make sure they are up to date on all their immunizations. The Prescribe Wellness 2017 Vaccination and Preventative Care Survey showed that 55% of patients chose to get vaccinated at a pharmacy due to convenience. Those surveyed reported "friendly and fast service, ease of access, and pharmacy where they obtain prescription medications already" as reasons for why they liked receiving their immunizations at a pharmacy.
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Pharmacists are trained to immunize in many different ways. Most schools of pharmacy have vaccination administration and training integrated into the curriculum. Pharmacists can become certified through state and national pharmacy associations and training is available for those who may have graduated before this type of training was commonplace in pharmacy education. Training programs include important topics such as vaccine safety, screening for precautions and contraindications in each patient, immunologic drug interactions, dosing schedules, proper dose preparation and injection technique, and signs and symptoms of adverse reactions to vaccines.4 A hands-on, skill portion is most often part of this training.

For those fortunate enough to be trained in immunizations as a student, there are plenty of opportunities to practice and use immunization skills and knowledge prior to graduating. Laboratory exercises, simulation activities, health fairs, and experiential experiences are just a few of the venues where these skills can be mastered.


Pharmacists also play an important role in knowing the immunization schedule, recommending specific vaccines for individual patients, and providing patient counseling. This month, we should make an extra effort in the hectic schedule of our day to ensure that we share this information with the people without which, our profession would not exist and help ensure they are up-to-date in one of the easiest areas for preventative medicine available in modern health care.


Written with Zain Cheikhali, PharmD Candidate 2018 Harrison School of Pharmacy Auburn University

References

1.    1. National Immunization Awareness Month - National Public Health Information Coalition (NPHIC). (2017). Nphic.org. Accessed  21 May 21, 2017 at https://www.nphic.org/niam

2.    2. Vaccinations: The Expanding Role of Pharmacists. 2017;Pharmacytimes.com. accessed May 21, 2017 at:  http://www.pharmacytimes.com/publications/issue/2010/january2010/featurefocusvaccinations-0110

3.    3. PrescribeWellness Survey: Two in Three Americans Worried About Losing Healthcare - PrescribeWellness Blog. (2017). PrescribeWellness Blog. Accessed May 21, 2017 at: https://blog.prescribewellness.com/2017/04/prescribewellness-survey-two-three-americans-worried-losing-healthcare/

4.    4. ASHP Guidelines on the Pharmacist’s Role in Immunizations Ashp.org. Accessed May 21, 2017 at: https://www.ashp.org/-/media/assets/policy-guidelines/docs/guidelines-pharmacists-role-immunization.pdf

 

 



Marilyn Bulloch, PharmD, BCPS, FCCM
Marilyn Bulloch, PharmD, BCPS, FCCM
Marilyn Novell Bulloch, PharmD BCPS, is an Associate Clinical Professor of Pharmacy Practice at the Auburn University School of Pharmacy and an Adjunct Associate Professor at the University of Alabama-Birmingham School of Medicine and the University of Alabama College of Community Health Sciences . She completed a post-graduate pharmacy practice residency at the University of Alabama-Birmingham Hospital and a post-graduate specialty residency in critical care pharmacy at Charleston Area Medical Center in Charleston, West Virginia. Dr. Bulloch also completed a Faculty Scholars Program in geriatrics through the University of Alabama-Birmingham Geriatric Education Center in 2011. She serves on multiple committees and in leadership positions for many local, state, and national pharmacy and interdisciplinary medical organizations.
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