August is National Immunization Awareness Month

As public trust in vaccines has fallen, it’s up to pharmacists to combat misinformation.

August is National Immunization Awareness Month (NIAW) and health care professionals should take the opportunity to properly highlight the importance of vaccines and vaccine awareness.

Public trust in vaccines is falling, with many parents refusing to vaccinate their children against diseases such as the measles, according to a 2018 study published by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The NIH survey indicated that a surge of anti-vaccine sentiment, especially against the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine, has caused multiple measles outbreaks in countries where the virus was previously considered eliminated.

The study, titled, “The Anti-vaccination Movement: A Regression in Modern Medicine,” attributes the growing anti-vaccine movement to the internet and the spread of anti-vaccination ideas.

Pharmacists are the most widely available health care providers, with more than 90% of Americans living within 5 miles of a community pharmacy, which makes them ideal for administration of routine vaccines. According to a recent Pharmacy Times article, 28.2% of flu shots administered in 2017 were administered by pharmacists. During the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, pharmacists have proven to be invaluable in regards to testing for the virus; however, current pay structures have kept them from being able to be reliably reimbursed for their service.

The National Association of Chain Drug Stores, along with the National Forum for Heart Disease & Stroke Prevention and 20 other advocacy groups, formed a collation to ask Congress to address the issue of pharmacist reimbursement in order to accelerate and expand the COVID-19 testing process, according to a Pharmacy Times article. This issue will become even more pressing as a COVID-19 vaccine becomes available.

“As communicators, it is our responsibility to remind people that vaccination remains one of the best ways to protect ourselves, our families, and our communities from serious infectious diseases. Vaccine side effects are extremely rare, and the benefits of getting vaccinated significantly outweigh the risks” Director of the NIH National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Anthony S. Fauci, MD, said in December 2019. “However, with so many vaccine myths spreading online, some people are understandably confused. It is important to respond to earnest questions with patience, compassion, and a clear explanation of the science backing the safety and benefits of immunization.”

Reference:

Muacevic, Alexander et al. The Anti-vaccination Movement: A Regression in Modern Medicine (Study), Bethesda, MD, July 2018, NIH, accessed August 10, 2020

Fauci, Anthony Building Trust in Vaccines, Bethesda, MD, December 2019, NIH, accessed August 10, 2020

Lu, Xiaoyu, “Barriers Shown to Decrease Uptake of Vaccines Administered in Community Pharmacy”, August 10, 2020, Cranbury, NJ, Pharmacy Times accessed August 10, 2020

Hippensteele, Alana “A Coalition of Patients Urges Congress to Recognize the Importance of Pharmacists During the COVID-19 Pandemic,” August 7, 2020, Cranbury, NJ, Pharmacy Times, accessed August 10, 2020