Our Unsung Defenders Against Disease
As we head into flu season, the associated challenges of dealing with the virus will highlight the importance of vaccination and pharmacists’ growing contribution to it.
As we head into flu season, the associated challenges of dealing with the virus will highlight the importance of vaccination and pharmacists’ growing contribution to it. According to the CDC, pharmacists administered 6% of the total influenza vaccinations in the 2005-2006 flu season,1 a percentage that jumped to nearly 25% in the 2015-2016 season.2 Pharmacists can vaccinate in all 50 states, and 1 in 4 Americans is vaccinated in a pharmacy, preventing untold cases of flu every year. For example, last season’s flu vaccine reduced the risk of getting sick by about half (48%) for vaccinated individuals. Pharmacists don’t get much fanfare from other media sources, but Pharmacy Times® contends that pharmacists are our unsung defenders against disease.
Advances in biotechnology, vaccines, and drugs are our best defenses against new and emerging infectious threats, and pharmacists are perfectly positioned to employ them because 95% of Americans live within 5 miles of a pharmacy.3 Therefore, public health agencies should be ready to collaborate with pharmacists if a pandemic breaks out. Pharmacists can immunize patients efficiently, allowing other health care providers time to treat ill patients. However, more work is needed to ensure pharmacists are incorporated early in a pandemic.
Sam Graitcer, MD, of the CDC Pandemic Influenza Vaccine Task Force, spoke of this collaboration at the 2016 National Adult and Influenza Immunization Summit. In his presentation, “Being Ready for the Next Pandemic: Coordination Between Public Health and Pharmacies for Expanded Access to Pandemic Vaccines,” Graitcer noted how in 2009, pharmacists were underutilized because the H1N1 vaccine was not widely available in pharmacies until after the peak of disease. During a severe pandemic, beginning widespread vaccination at the peak of disease has little impact, according to Graitcer. Therefore, expanded use of pharmacists as vaccinators is critical early in a pandemic response.
Pharmacy Times® will continue to help educate and prepare pharmacists with content such as this month’s Immunization issue, which includes features on OTC immune boosters, kicking off the 2017-2018 influenza immunization season, and 6 vaccine myths debunked, to help you provide the highest quality of care to your patients. For timely related content on pharmacytimes.com, read “CDC Releases Updated ACIP Immunization Recommendations for 2017” for the key changes in the ACIP guidelines. Pharmacy Times® is here to be your best resource for providing patients with optimal care. And now is the perfect time for recognizing your extra efforts. As American Pharmacists Month, October is designated for acknowledging the significant impact that pharmacists have on their communities and health care teams. In addition, October 20 is National Pharmacy Technician Day. So, please join Pharmacy Times® and your peers in celebrating dedicated pharmacy staff: use #ThankAPharmacist on social media. As an important part of our mission, we pledge to continue promoting the valuable contributions of pharmacists to patient care and the health care industry.
Thank you for reading!
Mike Hennessy, Sr
Chairman and CEO
- Wick JY. Pharmacy-based immunization programs make an impact. Pharmacy Times website. pharmacytimes.com/publications/issue/2006/2006-04/2006-04-5476. Published April 1, 2006. Accessed February 9, 2017.
- CDC. National early season flu vaccination coverage, United States, November 2015. CDC website. cdc.gov/flu/fluvaxview/nifs-estimates-nov2015.htm#place. Updated October 25, 2016. Accessed February 9, 2017.
- Community pharmacists can help lower overall health care costs. National Community Pharmacists Association website. ncpanet.org/advocacy/federal-advocacy/medicare-issues/community-pharmacists-can-help-lower-overall-health-care-costs. Accessed August 21, 2017.