Pharmacist Immunization Policies Boost Flu Vaccine Uptake

AUGUST 14, 2017
Jeannette Y. Wick, RPh, MBA, FASCP
How do changes and policy at the state level affect influenza virus vaccine uptake? This is the focus of a study conducted by Avalere Health and the National Association of Chain Drug Stores and published in the journal Clinical Therapeutics.

In the 2014-2015 influenza season, only 38% of adults between the ages of 18 and 64 received the flu vaccine. In that same season, 66.7% of adults aged 65 years and older were immunized. However, the immunization goals for the nation are 80% for adults younger than 64 years old and 90% adults older than 65 years old.

According to the study, 41% of Americans were immunized in nontraditional settings (eg workplace, retail establishment, or community center). Approximately 20% of individuals chose supermarkets and drugstores to receive flu vaccines.

The researchers compared immunization rates across the United States before and after policy changes that gave pharmacists the ability to administer flu vaccines. Today, pharmacists in all 50 states and Washington DC are able to administer immunizations to adults, but some states allowed immunization authority earlier than others. The researchers looked at the timing of state laws.

The researchers documented a positive effect when states expanded pharmacists roles in immunization. They estimated that 4.1 million additional adults were immunized in 2013 because states allowed pharmacists to administer the flu vaccine, which would have resulted in between 81,000-134,000 fewer influenza infections among adults in that year, depending on vaccine effectiveness.

The odds that an adult would receive the flu shot increased by 7.8% in states that allowed pharmacists to be immunizers. The age groups in which the impact was greatest was in adults aged 40 to 44 years old and 45 to 50 years old.

The researchers also applauded the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services decision to allow standing orders for vaccines for senior patients. They noted that the impact of this change with regard to pharmacist immunization may be small, because these patients tend to see their physicians quite often, but the decision certainly increased immunization in this group.

Reference
Drozd EM, Miller L, Johnsrud M. Impact of Pharmacist Immunization Authority on Seasonal Influenza Immunization Rates Across States. Clin Ther. 2017 Aug 3. pii: S0149-2918(17)30771-3.

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