Resources to Help Pharmacists Develop Alternative Flu Vaccination Sites
Pharmacy Times® interviewed Alan Green, the US head of sales, infectious disease at AstraZeneca, on the Flu+Force campaign and its efforts to support the health care system by providing resources that can help pharmacists develop alternative influenza (flu) vaccination sites to increase vaccination rates in the country.
Alana Hippensteele: So Alan, what is Flu+Force, and why is it important to have this extra support for the health care system this flu season?
Alan Green: Hi Alana, glad to be here. By the way, thank you.
So, Flu+Force is really our attempt to take a lot of information and cull it down into a very simple, single site that physicians, health care providers, and pharmacists can go to use as a resource to create an alternative site type of mobile clinic for flu vaccination. And so one of the things that we recognized early on is there's a lot of information out there about creating mobile sites, alternative sites, or drive-through clinics for flu vaccination, and other types of vaccinations, but it was sort of difficult to find all of that, and you had to really dive deep into specific websites, including the CDC, to find the information that was needed. So, part of our effort was to make it easier for health care providers, if they want to do that type of clinic, and especially these days, when they find that’s something that's quite beneficial for public health. So, we created Flu+Force, and that's in a nutshell what it is.
Alana Hippensteele: Yeah. So how can Flu+Force resources support pharmacies in the planning for alternative flu vaccination clinics?
Alan Green: So, one of the things that we really like about Flu+Force is it brings a lot of resources to bear for really a minimal investment. In fact, we have free templates that allow you information on creating website banners, flyers, or posters that can talk about this alternative site or mobile clinic ,whether it's a drive-through or a walk-up, or maybe it's just a pop-up in your community, as a part of your outreach to your community. But we've got some resources that are available. You can download those, and you can utilize those to advertise.
But then once you're in the site, Alana, what we like about it is it's got patient education materials that can be utilized. It's got planning and process documents. There's certainly vaccine storage and handling guidance and vaccine documentation information. I think the thing that's really important for your viewership to know is this is not something that Astrazeneca created, this is really compiled by some agencies and some groups that already had this information out there, but we've helped to sort of bring it into this very understandable way to create your own pop-up clinic or a mobile health care clinic.
We work with groups like the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), we work with the Immunization Action Coalition, the National Foundation for Infectious Disease (NFID), and we even work with a patient advocacy group called Families Fighting Flu and the National Adult and Influenza Immunization Summit as well. They were all part of this, including some university programs and teaching hospitals that helped us compile this information that we felt like was relevant for health care providers to really do this service in their community.
Alana Hippensteele: Right. So how can these resources help pharmacies better serve their patients and increase vaccination rates specifically?
Alan Green: Yeah, I think the first thing we have to realize is that flu is really a devastating illness for families and for individuals. Just last year, according to the CDC, 56 million patients, or 56 million individuals, contracted influenza. Now that wasn't always a case of high mortality and morbidity, it's also the effects that it has on your family, including loss of work, certainly the downstream dollar influence it has on the family, but I also think about this 62,000 deaths that occurred last year, according to the CDC, that could have been prevented through vaccinations or could have possibly been prevented through vaccinations.
So, this is the first set up that we have to understand: This is not the common cold, this is a very devastating illness. So, I think about what we do and can do with pharmacists and retail pharmacies in this regard, and that is really meet the patient where they are. You know, to me, it's not a matter of creating something that has a lot of bells and whistles and it's fancy, it's about meeting patients in a way that gives them choice, and if they're not comfortable coming into the traditional setting to receive a flu vaccine, then maybe we take that setting into a different environment, and we take it outside, and we have drive-thru options, or we have walk-up options, or other mobile type of options, and that was really the genesis of Flu+Force. At fluforce.com, you can go and look at all the elements that are part of that.
We think that's going to be very helpful. It's also in guidance with what the CDC would have us do, which is really have strong programs, strong flu vaccination programs to best support our health system, and to be good stewards of the limited resources that we have in that health care system.
Alana Hippensteele: So, what kind of resources are available for pharmacies for this planning process, and where can they find these resources?
Alan Green: So, I would say a couple of places you can go. If you go to fluforce.com, what you're going to see is a number of things. First, you'll see the patient communication templates that are free. You can download those, you can use those, including posters or website banners that you can put on your website, but you're also going to see things like, under patient education materials, the IAC has put together shot complications and what to do in those situations, or influenza questions and answers, or the NFID has patient education materials. These are some of the examples of several of the things that you can go to and you can take a look and see what's going to be right for you.
As you as you put your plan together for an alternate site flu vaccination clinic, some of the planning and process documents also include the CDC Fight Flu toolkit, or the AAP immunizing parents and other close family contacts in the pediatric office setting. These are just examples of the many things that are in this website that can be valuable.
We've got another website too and it's called prepareforflu.com. That's a patient website, and it's got information on not only the options of how you can get your flu vaccine, but the different flu vaccine options that you do have, whether it's injectable or the needle-free option. You can explore more in that website prepareforflu.com.
Finally, I would say if you've got questions and you want to talk to somebody about next season and what you'd like to do, we have a customer care center at 800-221-1638, that's 800-221-1638, and they can give you some specific options for your flu clinic for next season.
Alana Hippensteele: Excellent. How can Flu+Force resources also help pharmacists share ways that patients can protect themselves and their families during this year's flu season during the COVID-19 pandemic? You mentioned a couple of ways, but are there any other resources or pathways?
Alan Green: Yeah, look, I think some of the best resources are the one-on-one resources that that can be had with health care providers like pharmacists. I can only speak to my own personal experience with my pharmacist.
So I have a great relationship with my physician, and quite often I'll get vaccinated in the physician's office from year to year, but I also have a great relationship that might be slightly deeper with my pharmacist, and if nothing else, it's because I see the pharmacist all the time. I see my doctor when I'm ill or maybe yearly during my physical, but I think there's a relationship that's built between the pharmacist and with the patient, and so one of the things that I see is, especially in flu, the pharmacy, as of November, according to some recent data that I saw shared by the CDC, you've actually seen 15 million more doses of flu [vaccine] utilized in your setting than you did this same time last year, and that was through the month of November. So, I see this as a growing segment of business certainly, but I see that relationship that's built with the patient as being vitally important, and I think that's one of the fundamental things to a really strong vaccination program.
I also think, Alana, about how yearly a trust factor is assessed in the health care community, and at the top of that trust grouping is always the pharmacist. And so, I think about that level of trust combined with relationship and what's that what is that going to do for flu programs. So, if the pharmacist is really clear on the impact of the disease and that we have a solution through a vaccine, it's quite obvious to me that they're going to be quite compelling to the patient to receive that vaccine, so I just view that probably is more important than any sort of resource that Astrazeneca could create.
Alana Hippensteele: Right. So, during the flu season, what do you think is the value of innovation in the pharmacy field.
Alan Green: Yeah, I think the innovation is found really in that relationship with the patient first of all one of the innovators that I see pharmacies do better than anybody is the recall. I know from my own personal experience, I was bombarded with a lot of messages to come in and get a second dose of a vaccine that I was receiving, but I also know that that same reach out occurs for flu season every year, and that type of innovation and that approach to the customer and that reminder to the patient I think is quite important.
I think as we get into a position where we expand our vaccines technologies and our offerings, certainly, that's going to have a place with pharmacy. But you know, for right now, I think the greatest innovation will be how we reach patients. It's one of the aspirations that we have is to create some more linkage to that patient that can then link the patient to the health care providers, like the retail pharmacist or the independent pharmacist, and ensure that we're working in tandem. And so, I think the greatest innovations are going to come in the coming seasons when we learn really to work as partners in this with the patient in mind, and really great health care in mind.
Alana Hippensteele: Yeah, absolutely. Do you have any closing thoughts?
Alan Green: I think the biggest closing thought I had is just the story of flu itself, which is it's not a cold, this can be a devastating illness that actually takes the trajectory of families off course.
The beautiful thing about what we have is we have vaccines that really can help keep those families on course and those individuals on course for their lives, and that we are able to do that and that we're able to participate and play a part in that is a really big deal. I think I would just like to just say thank you to the pharmacist for all you do in this. The work that you do is incredible, the patient reach that you have is incredible.
So, I know that the CDC recommends that anybody 6 months of age or older receive a flu vaccine every year, and at Astrazeneca, we're really of the strong belief that everybody deserves a flu vaccine, and that all groups of patients should have access to flu vaccines, you can play a big role in that.
I would just remind people that there are resources that can help if you have ever thought about doing an alternative site or a mobile flu clinic, maybe it's a part of outreach to your community, we have a resource for you it's called fluforce.com. I encourage you to check it out if you'd like to know some information for patients that might be relevant.
Check out prepareforflu.com, and it's got some really interesting input from groups like Families Fighting Flu and NFID, as well as others, and they can tell you a little bit about some of the flu options out there. It's not just injectable flu, we have needle free options.
So that's probably how I would leave it today, Alana. Yeah just big thank you to pharmacist and thank you to you for involving me today and talking to me.
Alana Hippensteele: Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me today, Alan. Now let’s hear from some of our other MJH Life Sciences brands on their latest headlines.