Pharmacy's Impact on Immunizations

The local pharmacy has become the place where many immunizations are administered.

The local pharmacy has become the place where many immunizations are administered, which is clear evidence that the pharmacist is well accepted in this role.

I was reminded of this by 2 recent events. The first was an e-mail I received from my family physician reminding me that “seasonal flu vaccinations, as well as good handwashing practices, are your best defense against the flu this winter.” But what really caught my attention was “No appointment necessary. Stop in and get your flu shot today.”

A few years ago, when I wanted my flu shot at this MD’s office, I had to make an appointment. I couldn’t just walk in and ask for it immediately. This change in procedure probably occurred because community pharmacies have become well established as the easiest place to get your flu shot, which further confirms to me that pharmacies are becoming recognized as health centers, rather than just drugstores.

There may be a few states where we need to work on getting expansion of the age eligible to receive pharmacist-administered immunizations, as well as an expansion in the type of immunizations administered, but no one questions the appropriateness of that role for pharmacists.

The second event occurred at the recent FIP Conference that I attended in Argentina. I learned that some countries have authorized pharmacists to administer vaccines before this occurred in the United States. Many countries now look to the pharmacist to play an increasingly important role in storing, distributing, and administering vaccinations, much like what the profession has experienced here.

At the meeting, FIP released a global report on pharmacy’s impact on immunization, which was based on a survey of 45 countries. The survey found that nearly half of them (44%) have community pharmacies offering vaccinations, demonstrating the expansion and growing acceptance of pharmacy immunization services around the world. An increasing number of countries are introducing immunization rights specifically for pharmacists. In 13 of the 45 countries, pharmacists themselves have the authority to administer vaccines and, therefore, the potential to reach 655 million individuals, the researchers estimated.

I’m amazed at how far pharmacy has come since those pioneer pharmacists in 1994 trained to administer vaccinations and got the ball rolling.