Pharmacists Play Key Role in Boosting Adult Vaccination Rates


Pharmacists see adults aged 50 years and older about 4 times more than physicians do, which opens opportunities for counseling and recommendations about vaccination.

Pharmacists are central to promoting adult vaccinations, according to an interactive discussion held this week at the National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA) Annual Convention.

“Prescriptions may be the focus of our jobs, but patient relationships are the fabrics of our day,” Jonathan Marquess, PharmD, CDE, FAPhA, explained during the first Pharmacists Advancing Vaccination Efforts (PhAVE) talk, which was sponsored by Merck.

Approximately 300,000 pharmacists are eligible to vaccinate adult patients in the pharmacy, Dr. Marquess said. He cited survey results from 2012-2014 that showed that pharmacists see adults aged 50 years and older about 4 times more than physicians do, which he said opens opportunities for counseling and recommendations about vaccination.

“If we aren’t doing more to vaccinate our adult patients, then who will?” Dr. Marquess said during the talk, noting that adult coverage remains low for most routinel- recommended vaccines.

According to Dr. Marquess, shifting from being reactive to being proactive in the pharmacy will be key to increasing vaccination rates in adult populations.

How can pharmacists make this change while juggling the high demand of their jobs? “Delegate, delegate, delegate,” Dr. Marquess recommended. Having staff do the more routine tasks associated with vaccinations, such as processing paperwork, and displaying signs and brochures that serve as visual cues to prompt patients to ask about vaccination, can free up time for pharmacists to focus more on counseling and discussing vaccinations with their patients.

Additionally, Dr. Marquess suggested taking note of adult patients’ ages and medications for chronic medical conditions when filling prescriptions, and preparing and attaching a note that indicates those specific vaccines a patient should consider. This will help alert staff to inform the patient about recommended vaccinations.

Patients may not be aware that their age or chronic condition may put them at a higher risk for vaccine-preventable diseases, Dr. Marquess noted. After determining when patients are eligible for a certain vaccine, Dr. Marquess urges pharmacists to provide clear recommendations and encourage same day vaccination.

There are 3 components to successful recommendations that pharmacists can make, Dr Marquess noted. He said in his experience, patients are most likely to listen when pharmacists include the following in their recommendations:

  • Specific vaccines
  • Why they recommend them
  • Which vaccines they’ve personally received

Although improvements have already been made in certain areas, such as influenza vaccination, there is still more work to be done, Dr. Marquess concluded.

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