Pharmacists Play Key Role in Preventing Flu Pandemic

In light of last year's severe flu season, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) urges pharmacists to recognize their key role in promoting influenza immunizations.

In light of last year’s severe flu season, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) urges pharmacists to recognize their key role in promoting influenza immunizations.

While it is impossible to tell how harsh the impending 2015-2016 flu season will be, pharmacists will likely have to work harder this year to encourage patients to get immunized, given the low efficacy of last season’s flu vaccine.

At the 2015 National Association of Chain Drug Stores (NACDS) Total Store Expo, CDC Associate Director of Adult Immunizations Carolyn Buxton Bridges, MD, told sessions attendees that pharmacists will be “essential in pandemic influenza responses” and serve as “key partners in expanding vaccination capacity during future [vaccine-preventable] pandemics.”

In addition to serving as easily accessible vaccination sites for the general public, “pharmacies have robust vaccine management and distribution systems,” which “can be leveraged for pandemic response,” she explained.

Rupal Mansukhani, PhD, PharmD, clinical assistant professor at the Ernesto School of Pharmacy at Rutgers University, recently told Pharmacy Times that “a great place [for pharmacists] to start” is by reviewing CDC materials “to best prepare for the upcoming flu season.”

At the 2015 NACDS Total Store Expo, Dr. Bridges outlined some practice standards developed by the CDC to help pharmacists maximize their potential to effectively curb the spread of influenza and other vaccine-preventable illnesses.

Because low vaccination rates among adults are the result of “missed opportunities” by health care professionals to properly assess patients, the first practice standard is to review the immunization records of all patients at every clinical encounter, Dr. Bridges explained.

The second practice standard is to actively recommend vaccines that patients require based on risk factors that include their age, health status, occupation, and lifestyle. The third standard is to administer the vaccine or refer patients to a vaccination provider, while the fourth standard is to properly document the vaccines given to patients, either through participation in a state’s immunization registry or by following up directly with patients who have been referred elsewhere.

All of these pharmacy-oriented strategic initiatives related to vaccinations will prove crucial in enhancing public health and supporting positive health outcomes during flu pandemics, the CDC believes.