Pharmacists Can Make a Difference During Influenza Pandemics
Jeannette Y. Wick, RPh, MBA, FASCP
Since November 2015, approximately 25% of adults who receive annual seasonal influenza vaccination are immunized in pharmacies or retail health care settings.
The growth in vaccine uptake at pharmacies has public health policy makers thinking about the next pandemic. Novel and unanticipated influenza viruses create pandemic potential, and manufacturers hurry to create new vaccines. This creates pressure to provide timely vaccine delivery as efficiently as possible as soon as the FDA allows manufacturers to release the new product.
If a pandemic occurs, the nation needs an extensive public-private partnership to give citizens rapid access to pandemic vaccination.
A study published in Disaster Medicine and Public Health Preparedness looks at the potential use of retail settings, specifically pharmacies, to ensure fast and far-reaching vaccine uptake. They concluded that relying heavily on pharmacies would be a smart way to protect the population.
A team of researchers from the CDC used a tailored software program to quantify the United States’ potential retail pharmacy vaccine administration capacity and estimate its potential to meet demands for increased vaccine uptake if pandemic influenza occurs.
Target coverage during a pandemic means reaching 80% of all Americans with a single dose of vaccine.
Mobilizing retail pharmacists to vaccinate at peak capacity also reduced the time to achieve 80% vaccination coverage nationally by 7 weeks (from 18 weeks without pharmacists, to 11 weeks with).
Including retail pharmacists in their model increased weekly national vaccine administration capacity to 25 million doses per week.
Results for individual states varied considerably due to their different laws regarding pharmacist immunizers. Having adequate regulation in place could be particularly important in areas considered medically underserved.
The researchers concluded that consumers' trust in pharmacists is a pivotal factor that may be one of the most important advantages in the event of a flu pandemic.
Schwerzmann J, Graitcer SB, Jester B, et al. Evaluating the impact of pharmacies on pandemic influenza vaccine administration. Disaster Med Public Health Prep. 2017 Feb 21:1-7. doi: 10.1017/dmp.2017.1. [Epub ahead of print]