In the News: Vaccines and the Expanding Role of the Pharmacist

Vaccines and the Expanding Role of the Pharmacist

With the increased awareness of the availability of vaccinations for seasonal influenza and the H1N1 virus, the general public has gained a greater appreciation of the role that pharmacists play in this important health care issue. The January 2010 issue of Pharmacy Times published an informative article on “Vaccinations: The Expanding Role of Pharmacists” to educate pharmacists about the critical role of vaccinations in a wide variety of diseases and report on how their own role has changed. Now, all 50 states allow pharmacists to administer vaccines, with Maine joining the list in October 2009.

Vaccines save lives: more than 50,000 adults and 300 children in the United States die annually from vaccine-preventable diseases or from their complications. Immunizations—including those administered by pharmacists—assist in preventing an estimated 14 million cases of vaccine-preventable diseases and 33,000 cases of death. In fact, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), which reviews and continually updates vaccination standards and schedules, recommends immunization in the United States for adults and children against a total of 17 infectious diseases.

The Pharmacy Times article details these vaccine-preventable diseases and explains the significant role of the pharmacist. “Pharmacists can be instrumental in providing patients with pertinent information to make informed choices when it comes to immunizations, in terms of the benefits as well as the risks,” reports author Yvette Terrie, BSPharm, RPh, a regular contributor to Pharmacy Times. She continues,“Pharmacists are also in a unique position to identify those patients who are in target groups for certain vaccinations.”

The pivotal role of pharmacists with regard to vaccinations became especially clear during this flu and cold season. Programs to accommodate that ever expanding role continue to be launched by chain drug stores, independent pharmacies, and community pharmacies. The goal of these programs is to fully utilize pharmacists as immunizations continue to stay top of mind for the health care community and general public.