In a recent letter sent to President Joseph R. Biden, American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP) and more than 50 other health systems and provider organizations requested that the president activate federal resources—such as the Department of Defense, the Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)—to establish mass vaccination sites that would supplement current coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) vaccination efforts at hospitals, long-term care facilities, and pharmacies.

In the letter, the organizations explained that deploying federal resources to meet the needs of the public in the fight against COVID-19 is critical to ensuring the success of President Biden’s goal of vaccinating 100 million people during his first 100 days in office.

“The slow ramp up in vaccinations has demonstrated that using federal organizations to operate mass vaccination sites, in addition to vaccination efforts at hospitals and community pharmacies, will be necessary to ensure that anyone who wants the vaccine can get it, as doses become available,” said ASHP CEO Paul W. Abramowitz, PharmD, ScD (Hon), FASHP, in a press release.

ASHP joined other groups in urging the new administration to use pharmacy, nursing, and medical students, as well as retired health care workers, to support the ramping up of this vaccination process.

Currently, pharmacists, pharmacy technicians, and student pharmacists have already been playing a critical role in the administration of COVID-19 vaccines throughout the country, according to 2 surveys ASHP conducted in December 2020.

Among health systems, pharmacists and other pharmacy staff reported in a recent ASHP survey that their departments’ roles in vaccination included overseeing receipt, storage, and handling of vaccines (88%); overseeing coordination and administration of the vaccine to staff (54%); and monitoring adverse events and submitting Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System reports (41%).

In hospitals, management has also utilized the pharmacy workforce to expand their COVID-19 vaccination staff. In an ASHP survey, approximately 40% of pharmacy respondents in hospitals reported vaccine administration was their primary role in the COVID-19 vaccination process.

In approximately one-third of the facilities that responded to the ASHP survey, the pharmacy was also noted to be involved in decisions about who would be prioritized for COVID-19 vaccination, where vaccines would be distributed to locations in the state or health system (30%), and how data would be processed into immunization databases (27%).

“Leveraging a highly qualified and empowered pharmacy workforce in all care settings is a vital step to expanding patient access to the COVID-19 vaccine,” Abramowitz said in the press release. “Pharmacists, pharmacy technicians, and student pharmacists serve as knowledgeable and accessible immunization providers in their communities, successfully collaborating with public health officials and other providers to ensure that there is broad protection from worsening and future outbreaks of the disease.” 

Additionally, 90% of pharmacists surveyed explained that they had either already been vaccinated against COVID-19 (32%) or would be vaccinated as soon as possible (56%). Furthermore, 11% responded that they planned to receive the vaccination later on, whereas only 1% responded that they were not planning to be vaccinated against COVID-19 in the future.

At many facilities, pharmacists and pharmacy staff have been prioritized in COVID-19 vaccination planning due to their key role in the success of such efforts. According to an ASHP survey, 19% of facilities have prioritized pharmacy staff for immediate vaccination, with early vaccination appointments going to those pharmacy staff who work directly with COVID-19 patient care areas (90%), work in direct non-COVID-19 patient care areas (50%), or work to administer COVID-19 vaccines (32%).

At schools and colleges of pharmacy, a recent ASHP survey showed that all 42 responding schools and colleges had been asked to provide student pharmacists to volunteer for COVID-19 immunizations. These pharmacy students have then been asked to support vaccinations in local health systems (55%); community pharmacies (14%); health departments, including vaccination in rural areas (17%); long-term care facilities (5%); and in-campus immunization efforts (29%).

Additionally, at least half of the pharmacy students at these schools and colleges are already certified immunizers, with 62% of deans reporting that approximately three-quarters of their pharmacy students meet the criteria established by the Department of Health and Human Services regarding the requirements to administer COVID-19 vaccines.

Due to the high demand for student volunteers in COVID-19 vaccine efforts across the country, some schools and colleges of pharmacy have needed to establish a centralized hub that can prioritize requests, establish guidelines for external partners who need student support, and develop rotations specific to COVID-19 vaccination efforts.

REFERENCE
ASHP Calls for Coordinated Federal Response to COVID-19 Vaccine Roll Out, Expansion of Vaccinator Workforce. Bethesda, MD: American Society of Health-System Pharmacists; January 19, 2021. [email] Accessed January 20, 2021.