Pharmacy Immunizations Have Improved Flu Vaccine Uptake

Many Americans neglect a powerful way to prevent influenza infection and reduce its $87 billion related cost to the United States: flu shots.

Many Americans neglect a powerful way to prevent influenza infection and reduce its $87 billion related cost to the United States: flu shots.

Only 36% of adults aged 64 years or younger were immunized against influenza in 2013. Nevertheless, vaccination rates in this group have surged from 16% since 1993. Of note, each US state incrementally granted pharmacists the right to administer influenza vaccines from 1996 to 2009.

Previous analyses of vaccination rates in 1995 and 1999 concluded that states with immunizing pharmacists have higher influenza vaccination rates, perhaps because pharmacists provide vaccinations conveniently and without an appointment.

Now, an article published ahead-of-print in the American Journal of Public Health provides evidence that pharmacist vaccination has dramatically increased influenza vaccination, especially in young adults.

The study authors stratified vaccination rates by age (adults younger and older than 65 years) and state of residence. They also separated states into categories based on the year in which the state allowed pharmacists to provide immunizations.

Young adult influenza vaccination rates were similar throughout the country in 1993, before pharmacists had the authority to administer vaccinations. Early adopter states saw vaccination rates rise, but other states experienced no change.

By 2013, the difference between early adopter states and the last few states to allow pharmacist vaccinations (which were Arizona, Connecticut, Florida, Maine, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, and West Virginia) was more than 10 percentage points.

The researchers discovered that the vaccination rate more than doubled between 1993 and 2013 in young adults, corresponding with the adoption of pharmacist vaccinations.

However, immunization rates didn’t improve as robustly among adults older than 65 years; in fact, they didn’t improve at all. The researchers postulated that younger adults are more receptive to the convenience component of pharmacy vaccinations than older adults.

The CDC recommends that all individuals aged 6 months old and older receive an influenza vaccination annually unless they have clear contraindications.