Pharmacists Play Key Role in Encouraging COVID-19 Booster Uptake

Pharmacy TimesJanuary 2023
Volume 89
Issue 1

Educating patients, posting on social media, and countering misinformation are critical strategies.

With just 10.1% of individuals 5 years or older having received an updated COVID-19 booster, as of November 13, 2022,1 the door is open for pharmacists increase vaccination intake with medication management services.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, pharmacists have played a critical role. From administering vaccines to providing education, pharmacists have been on the front lines of patient care. In fact, pharmacists administered more than 270 million COVID-19 vaccines between February 2020 and September 2022, according to the results of a recent study.2

By administering COVID-19 treatments and vaccines, pharmacists have helped prevent more than an estimated 1 million deaths.2 With the recent rollout of updated COVID-19 boosters, pharmacists continue to be vital members of the health care team.

The Moderna bivalent COVID-19 boosters are authorized for individuals 6 years or older.3 Pfizer-BioNTech bivalent COVID-19 boosters are authorized for individuals 5 years or older.3 Individuals are eli-gible as long as it has been at least 2 months since they had the last primary series or booster dose.3 Pharmacists can implement a variety of strategies, such as an effective booster campaign, to improve booster uptake, which is critical because COVID- 19 cases are expected to increase throughout the winter. The results of an analysis showed that if 80% of individuals 5 years or older in the United States had received an updated COVID-19 booster by the end of 2022, approximately 90,000 deaths could be prevented.4 Additionally, more than 936,000 hospitalizations also could be avoided.4

Approximately 50% of individuals surveyed knew little or nothing about the updated COVID-19 boosters, according to the results of a Kaiser Family Foundation study.

This highlights the need for more widespread education. Pharmacists can promote updated boosters through social media campaigns on platforms such as Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.6 During face-to-face and telephone MTM consults, pharmacists can check if patients are up to date on their COVID-19 boosters. Text message reminders are also a valuable tool to increase vaccine rates and address patient concerns and questions.

Countering misinformation is also a critical role for pharmacists. The US Department of Health and Human Services has published a variety of resources to address COVID-19 vaccine misinformation.7 When pharmacists respond to vaccine hesitancy, it is important to first acknowledge, affirm, and empathize with the patient’s beliefs.8 Then pharmacists should provide evidence based information. Considering culturally acceptable and literacy level are also critical to debunk misinformation.8 Strategies for encouraging patients to get their COVID-19 boosters are outlined in the Figure.4,7,8

Patients can receive their COVID-19 booster and influenza vaccine together. During MTM consults, pharmacists can check to make sure patients are up to date on both. Influenza season started early, so it is especially critical to ensure that patients are protected to prevent coinfection. As of November 10, 2022, 25 states were experiencing elevated levels of influenza across the country.9

References

1. COVID-19 vaccinations in the United States. CDC. Accessed November 13, 2022. https://covid.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker/#vaccinations_vacc-people-booster-percent-pop5

2. Grabenstein JD. Essential services: quantifying the contributions of Amer-ica’s pharmacists in COVID-19 clinical interventions. J Am Pharm Assoc. 2022;62(6):1929-1945.e1. doi:10.1016/j.japh.2022.08.010

3. Rosenblum HG, Wallace M, Godfrey M, et al. Interim recommendations from the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices for the use of bivalent booster doses of COVID-19 vaccines - United States, October 2022. MMWRMorb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2022;71(45):1436-1441. doi:10.15585/mmwr.mm7145a2

4. Fitzpatrick MC, Shah A, Moghadas SM, Vilches T, Pandey A, Galvani A. A fall COVID-19 booster campaign could save thousands of lives, billions of dollars. Commonwealth Fund. October 5, 2022. Accessed November 30, 2022. https://www.commonwealthfund.org/blog/2022/fall-covid-19-boost-er-campaign-could-save-thousands-lives-billions-dollars

5. Sparks G, Lopes L, Hamel L, Montero A, Presiado M, Brodie M. KFF COVID-19 vaccine monitor: September 2022. Kaiser Family Foundation. September 30, 2022. Accessed November 14, 2022. http://bitly.ws/xDgK

6. Fact sheet: President Biden to announce additional efforts to help Americans get their free, updated COVID-19 vaccine this fall. The White House. October 25, 2022. Accessed November 9, 2022. https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/statements-releases/2022/10/25/fact-sheet-president-biden-to-announce-additional-efforts-to-help-americans-get-their-free-updated-covid-19-vaccine-this-fall/

7. How to address COVID-19 vaccine misconceptions. US Department of Health and Human Services. September 19, 2022. Accessed November 9, 2022. https://wecandothis.hhs.gov/outreach-tools/address-ing-covid-19-vaccine-misconceptions

8. Addressing COVID-19 misinformation. Community Engagement Alliance. Accessed November 9, 2022. https://covid19community.nih.gov/sites/default/files/2021-03/Addressing_COVID-19_Misinformation.pdf

9. Weekly US map: influenza summary update. CDC. Accessed November 14, 2022. https://www.cdc.gov/flu/weekly/usmap.htm

About the Author

Jennifer Gershman, PharmD, CPh, PACS, is a drug information pharmacist and Pharmacy Times® contributor who lives in South Florida.

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