For Pharmacists, COVID-19 Holiday Safety Preparation Has Already Begun

The time is now for pharmacists to do some initial checks and pre-holiday planning to make sure they are ready for the coming weeks.

The holiday season is upon us and this year, pharmacists will play a key role in helping patients prepare for COVID-safe travel and celebrations. This is a good time for pharmacists to do some initial checks and pre-holiday planning to make sure you are ready for the coming weeks.

Accommodating children

With the CDC’s announcement on the availability of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-191 vaccine for children 5 to 11 years of age, pharmacists have a new patient demographic. For many pharmacists, this is the first time that they will be actively treating this age group and there are some easy steps to take to make the transition easier:

  • Think like a child: Make the treatment space both private and child-friendly. Posters, art, and other eye distractions can help with the experience.
  • Be ready for questions: Given the nature of the pandemic, children are better versed in COVID-19 and how it is treated. They will likely have questions about the vaccine and its effects, and time spent answering these questions will lead to a good connection and a more comfortable patient.
  • Mark the occasion: Children like a marker to show an achievement and the COVID-19 vaccine is a big one. A sticker or other item that shows their participation will lift spirits and underscore the message that vaccines are important.

Get the vaccination and other scheduling lanes ready

The children’s vaccinations add 2 more “lanes” for scheduling appointments in the form of first and second vaccine doses for children 5 to 11 years of age to the pharmacy offerings. This group requires both the specialized vaccine dose and smaller needles for children.

They join adults and older children getting first and second vaccines, those receiving booster shots, and those who have special doses due to health conditions. Pharmacies should plan to add these new scheduling lanes to those already in place, tracking for dosages and timing.

The new offerings are a good time to check for all supplies, such as tests, personal protective equipment supplies, as well as review reporting and documentation strategies. Do you have a seamless means to track upcoming appointments, show which vaccines that have been given, and produce records for patients?

Technology can help streamline these records and reporting, and now is a good time to look at your system with a view to upgrade to more features. Patients are looking for vaccine records to be made available electronically, ideally stored on their phones. A good record-keeping system will allow this option.

Prepare for an increased demand in rapid testing

The CDC’s recommendations for this year’s holiday season include avoiding gatherings if you might be ill, especially given the presence of people who are not fully vaccinated.2

Pharmacists should anticipate customer demand for rapid testing to make sure that no one in their party is at risk. Making patients aware that these tests are available is another good step for informed, safe health.

Spread the holiday cheer and the information

Similar to the booster availability, the new vaccines will require explanation. Pharmacists should prepare for these scenarios and get ahead of the process by assembling FAQs and other material available at the counter or online. Some areas to consider for information:

  • When will my children be fully vaccinated?
  • Do we need masks if everyone is vaccinated?
  • Are there plans for children’s boosters?
  • Do we still need to social distance in public?

Conclusion

2021 will be remembered as the year that pharmacists came into their own nationally dispensing certain therapies and treatments, including tests, vaccines, and monoclonal antibody therapies. COVID-19 treatment is expected to continue through the next year, at least, and pharmacists should be ready to keep the communication and connections with their pharmacists active. Holidays are a good time to connect with patients in a way that keeps the COVID-19 health conversation going into 2022.

About the Author

Paige Clark, RPh, is the VP of Pharmacy Programs and Policy at Prescryptive, overseeing the company’s policy work to drive awareness, utilization, and scope of trusted independent pharmacists nationally. Prior to Prescryptive, Paige spent 11 years at Oregon State University's College of Pharmacy, driving policy initiatives for the state’s licensed pharmacists, including the prescribing of birth control and tobacco cessation services. Paige also worked as the Staff Pharmacist Consultant for the Oregon Board of Pharmacy, managing rule writing, legislative endeavors, and regional and national policy work. She is a frequent speaker and presenter at national industry conferences and a multi-award winner, including several Pharmacist of the Year recognitions.

References

  1. COVID-19 Vaccination for Children 5 through 11 Years Old. CDC. https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/covid-19/planning/children.html. Accessed November 15, 2021.
  2. Holiday Celebrations. CDC. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/holidays/celebrations.html. Accessed November 15, 2021.