When It Comes to Flu Shots, Do Pharmacists Practice What They Preach?

AUGUST 21, 2016
Jeannette Y. Wick, RPh, MBA, FASCP
Influenza causes thousands of deaths and hundreds of thousands of hospitalizations annually in the United States. Pharmacists recommend an annual flu vaccine to protect patients against influenza-related morbidity and mortality, but do we follow our own advice?

The Ontario Pharmacy Research Collaboration found an answer to this question after gathering survey results from 780 community pharmacists in Ontario to determine whether they received the influenza vaccine during the 2013-2014 flu season.

The results published in a recent issue of the Canadian Pharmacists Journal indicate that not all pharmacists practice what they preach. In fact, only 70% of pharmacists surveyed received the flu vaccine.

Those who were certified immunizers were 3 times more likely to be vaccinated than noncertified pharmacists (81.6% versus 61.2%, respectively). The research team speculated that this may be related to increased education regarding the flu vaccine’s risks, benefits, and value. Vaccine convenience and the desire to serve as a role model to patients may also be motivators.

The researchers also looked for variables that influence health professional vaccination rates and reasons why pharmacists skip the flu shot, which were as follows:
Variables affecting influenza vaccination rates (% vaccinated):
(2014-2015 US health professional survey)
·      Vaccination required (96%)
·      Vaccination not required but offered at no cost for >1 day (83.9%)
·      Vaccination not required but offered at no cost for 1 day only (73.6%)
·      Vaccination not required or provided at no cost, but promoted (59.5%)
·      Vaccination not required, promoted or provided (44%)
Top vaccination concerns among pharmacists leading to no vaccination:
(2008 pharmacist-specific survey)
·      Fear of adverse effects
·      Perception of low risk of contracting influenza
·      Fear of contracting influenza from the vaccine
 
In the United States, estimated vaccination rates among pharmacists are slightly higher than 70%. According to the CDC, health care professionals’ influenza vaccination rates were approximately 77.3% in 2015. Additionally, a 2008 survey found vaccination rates of around 75% among community pharmacists.

Still, these rates are suboptimal. The CDC currently recommends that all US health care workers receive an annual influenza vaccination.

Vaccination among health care workers is vital. Although the flu may seem like a minor inconvenience to otherwise healthy adults, viral shedding can begin up to 1 day before symptom onset and continue for 5 or more days. During this time, the virus can be passed to patients, including those at high risk for flu-related morbidity and mortality, such as children and the elderly.

To increase vaccination rates among pharmacists, the researchers recommended campaigns involving vaccine promotion and education, as well as convenient, zero-cost vaccine access. They also issued a call to arms to encourage pharmacist vaccination.


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