Beyond COVID-19: The Future of Pharmacy Techs as Immunizers

With COVID-19 vaccination clinics still operating and booster doses on the horizon, there continues to be a need for pharmacy technicians as immunizers well into the future.

If there’s a positive aspect of the COVID-19 pandemic, it might be the fact that pharmacy technicians across the nation readily volunteered to fulfil the “all hands on deck” need for immunizers. It is from this call that an immediate-need vaccine administration skillset was planted for the pharmacy technician workforce.

When we step back to define the role of a pharmacy technician, administering immunizations is not a typical skillset unless the technician practices in Idaho, Rhode Island, or Utah.1

These 3 states have had pharmacy practice regulation in place for years that authorizes pharmacy technicians to administer vaccinations. Moving to a broader national view, the pharmacy technician vaccination administration skillset expanded when the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness (PREP) Act guidance in October 2020 authorized pharmacy technicians to administer COVID-19 vaccines and routine childhood vaccines.

The PREP Act guidance planted the immediate need immunizer skillset, but the PREP Act guidance will expire when the pandemic need dwindles. What happens then to the masses of pharmacy technicians who stepped up to the plate to acquire immunizer skills? What happens to their growing skillset, their talent, and their vaccination administration experience?

Now, moving ahead several months from the immediate need for pharmacy technicians to step up and into the circle of health care professionals administering round 1 and 2 COVID-19 vaccinations, we realize the success of this idea of pharmacy technicians as immunizers. With COVID-19 vaccination clinics still operating and booster doses on the horizon, there continues to be a need for pharmacy technicians as immunizers. In addition to this need, many pharmacy technicians want to continue to administer all types of vaccinations.

"My pharmacy, like many, was overrun with demand for the vaccine and being able to assist in the efforts by getting trained to vaccinate helped me be even more of an asset to my team,” said Mikayla Randolph, CPhT, who practices in Nebraska. “Moving forward past COVID vaccinations, I look forward to being able to assist my pharmacist in giving influenza immunizations. Every year we have those days where there is 5 people in line with antibiotic scripts waiting to be filled and 10 more people behind them wanting their season flu shot. Being able to take some pressure off of my pharmacist in a situation like that makes getting certified completely worth it."

Skillset growth, nurturing, and support are important elements in maintaining current needs and ensuring the future of pharmacy technicians as immunizers. Growth is naturally derived from experience in administering vaccination.

Nurturing the skillset seed comes from completion of continuing education and training specific to vaccination administration. Affirmation and positive support from pharmacists, pharmacy technician peers, and the health care community for this new vaccine administration role for pharmacy technicians as immunizers rounds out a successful planting with a blossoming future.

How we proceed as an industry in permitting pharmacy technicians to administer vaccination when PREP Act authorization goes away will vary state by state just as states currently devise and support state-specific pharmacy regulation.

The 3 points of action for pharmacy technicians to keep in mind with their future as immunizers is as follows:

1. Seek additional training and education

Routine vaccines are administered via a variety of routes. Although pharmacy technicians who answered the call for COVID-19 immunization were trained for the intramuscular route of administration, the enduring skillset to administer routine vaccines will also require training and education in other routes, such as intranasal, subcutaneous, and oral.

2. Have confidence in your advanced role as immunizer

Confidence in your technique—also referred to as an administration skillset—is gained through knowledge, experience, preparation, and support. Gain knowledge through initial training and by actively participating in continuing education specific to vaccine knowledge and vaccination administration. This type of continuing education is denoted with ‘06’ in the continuing pharmacy technician education universal activity number. Experience can only be acquired if you are employed in a setting that allows you to immunize and where the supervising pharmacist supports your expanded role more specifically the work that you’re doing. Prepare for the expanded vaccination administration role and gain support by reviewing the policy and procedures of your pharmacy workplace.

3. Be part of the movement

The history of pharmacy technician regulation, roles, tasks, and education mandates have been determined by pharmacists, not technicians. Be part of a positive change in your history, in your profession.

A good place to start is by contacting an association for help and guidance such as the American Association of Pharmacy Technicians. Local, state-specific pharmacy associations are also a great place to start as well as directly contacted your State Board of Pharmacy to find out how you can speak up by sharing your thoughts.

Pharmacists and pharmacy technicians alike agree that the ability and authority to administer vaccination is a spotlight on advanced practices for pharmacy technicians to shine.

“For the future, I believe that the ability to administer vaccines is just going to continue to elevate the profession of pharmacy technicians,” said Andye Miller, BS, CPhT, of Omaha, Nebraska.

Kylie Reinsch, CPhT, of RelyCare LTC Pharmacy in Lincoln, Nebraska, echoed those sentiments.

“The vaccination administration training at UNMC College of Pharmacy allowed me to be a part of the solution. The experience was just incredible,” Reinsch said.

Reference

Vaccines Administered by Certified Pharmacy Technicians in Idaho, March 28, 2018, Karen Berger, PharmD, Pharmacy Times https://www.pharmacytimes.com/view/vaccines-administered-by-certified-pharmacy-technicians-in-idaho. Accessed September 9, 2021.

About the Author

Ms. Neville is the sterile compounding instructor for pharmacist students in the Department of Pharmacy Practice and Science at the University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Pharmacy. She directs pharmacy technician education and training offered by the college. She prepares pharmacy technician curriculum and provides lecture for a number of pharmacy technician topics.