Increasing Pneumococcal Vaccine Uptake in Rural Areas: Pharmacies May Be Key


A study published in The Consultant Pharmacist looks at the possibility that community pharmacies could increase pneumococcal vaccine uptake.

Myths about pneumococcal vaccine are common among older Americans. Despite numerous public health campaigns, people who most need this immunization may believe that the vaccine itself can cause pneumonia; that they need not be immunized if they've already had pneumonia; or that they are at low risk for this life-threatening infection. These notions are all wrong!

Pneumococcal vaccine uptake is less than desirable across the country, and in many rural areas, uptake is very low. A study published in The Consultant Pharmacist looks at the possibility that community pharmacies could increase pneumococcal vaccine uptake. Conducted by a team of healthcare providers from Washington State University, this study suggests that bolstering pharmacists' efforts in rural areas could help solve this problem.

In Washington state, pharmacists can prescribe, and administer immunizations under collaborative drug therapy agreements (CDTA) or administer pursuant to a prescription. These researchers conducted a qualitative descriptive study of pharmacy provision of this vaccine in 2 rural Washington state counties. They contacted every pharmacy (N = 10) by telephone. Among the 10 pharmacies, prescription volume ranged from 300 to 2500 prescriptions per week. Six of the pharmacies provided vaccines.

Concerned that affordability could be a deterrent to immunization, the researchers determined how much patients could be expected to pay for the pneumococcal vaccine. They found that pharmacies charged between $65 and $228 for the PCV13 vaccine, and between $64 and $120 for the PPSV23 vaccine.

All of the pharmacies offered unscheduled vaccinations, in which patients could walk in, and be immediately vaccinated. Some pharmacies required a prescription from a provider before they would administer pneumococcal vaccine, which could be a barrier to care.

Some pharmacies did not offer immunizations because they feared interference with their existing collaborative relationships with physicians, or an unwelcome impact on neighboring healthcare venues that offer the vaccines. Pharmacies also cited availability of vaccines at local clinics, and lack of certification.

The researchers note that vaccine uptake may follow a consumer model. Interested patients may need to call around to find the best price.


Colorafi K, Panther S, McKeirnan K, et al. Assessing pneumococcal vaccination availability in under-vaccinated rural counties: a pharmacy perspective. Consult Pharm. 2018;33(3):163-170.

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