Recognizing the Important Work of Pharmacists as Immunizers During World Immunization Week

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Each time a pharmacist immunizes a patient against one of the 27 infections for which a safe and effective vaccine exists, the profession continues to protect communities against diseases that wreaked havoc on generations.

The last week of April is World Immunization Week, which is a week that acts to highlight the role of immunizations in the prevention of illness and the reduction of disease transmission. Each year, vaccines prevent 2 to 3 million deaths related to diseases such as diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, influenza, and measles.1 The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that the number of influenza-related hospitalizations in the United States have ranged from 140,000 to 710,000 since 2010, but that the influenza-related deaths have only ranged from 12,000 to 60,000.2

The accessibility of pharmacists contributes greatly to the immunization of the community. Approximately 90% of people in America live within 5 miles of a community pharmacy, which has increased the ability for many Americans to receive same-day vaccines.3

Pharmacists began immunizing in 1996 when the American Pharmacists Association (APhA) introduced a training certificate program for pharmacists; by 2004, around 15,000 pharmacists and pharmacy students had been formally trained to immunize.4 As of 2020, more than 360,000 trained pharmacists across the United States were authorized to administer vaccines, and today, every state allows pharmacists to administer immunizations.5,6

The role of the pharmacist in vaccinating the US population against COVID-19 during the COVID-19 pandemic is a recent example of pharmacists’ critical contribution to the immunization of communities. For many during the pandemic, pharmacists were the only direct health care providers available in 2020 and 2021 due to physician visit cancellations, reduced hours, and temporary closings. During this time, pharmacies remained open, and some even provided extended hours to high-risk individuals. Once the COVID-19 vaccines were available, pharmacists quickly adapted. As of April 6, more than 239.1 million COVID-19 vaccines had been administered and reported by community pharmacies.7

“One of the greatest privileges and responsibilities we have as a profession in public health is vaccination. While the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the incredible contribution of pharmacists to vaccinations, we have been performing these valuable patient care services for a long time,” said Christopher Bland, PharmD, BCPS, FIDSA, FCCP, a clinical professor at the University of Georgia College of Pharmacy with over 20 years of clinical experience. “I hope these important contributions lead to even more widespread adoption of pharmacist clinical services, including rapid diagnostic testing of infectious diseases and treatment when appropriate.”

A review article in 2016 looked at 36 studies assessing the role of pharmacists as educators, facilitators, and/or administrators of vaccines. All studies reviewed found an increase in vaccine coverage when pharmacists were involved in the immunization process.8 Another study looked at the cost-effectiveness of pharmacy-based immunization services (PBIS). It was concluded that PBIS are a cost-effective way to increase adult vaccination rates, particularly in their ability to engage under-vaccinated populations that have been difficult to reach through traditional methods.9

It is important to recognize the impact pharmacists have on major health issues such as immunizations. By being readily accessible, pharmacists can continue to positively contribute to vaccination rates. In some areas, the community pharmacist may be the primary vaccination resource.

The goal of World Immunization Week is to support the ongoing protection of people and communities from vaccine-preventable diseases.10 The 2022 theme of World Immunization Week is “Long life for all,” which acts as a reminder that vaccines have played a large role in the increased life expectancy, decreased childhood mortality, and decreased post-infection complications (which could be lifelong) from previous generations.11

Each time a pharmacist immunizes a patient against one of the 27 dangerous infections for which a safe and effective vaccine exists, the profession continues to strive to support and protect our communities against diseases that wreaked havoc on generations of people. However, society is longer affected by these diseases because of the efficacy and safety of vaccines that helped to eliminate them. This World Immunization Week, take time to let your patients know the role you play in immunity and health.

References

  1. Vaccines and immunization. World Health Organization. https://www.who.int/health-topics/vaccines-and-immunization#tab=tab_1. Accessed April 1, 2022.
  2. Vaccine preventable adult diseases. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/adults/vpd.html. Published March 30, 2022. Accessed April 5, 2022.
  3. National Association of Chain Drug Stores (NACDS) Foundation. Face-to-Face with Community Pharmacies.https://www.nacdsfoundation.org/
  4. Hogue MD, Grabenstein JD, Foster SL, Rothholz MC. Pharmacist involvement with immunizations: A Decade of Professional Advancement. Journal of the American Pharmacists Association. 2006;46(2):168-182. doi:10.1331/154434506776180621
  5. American Pharmacists Association. https://media.pharmacist.com/practice
  6. Pharmacist Immunization Authority. NASPA. https://naspa.us/resource/pharmacist-authority-to-immunize/. Published January 28, 2022. Accessed April 1, 2022.
  7. Covid-19 vaccination Federal Retail Pharmacy Partnership Program. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/covid-19/retail-pharmacy-program/index.html. Published April 6, 2022. Accessed April 10, 2022.
  8. Isenor JE, Edwards NT, Alia TA, et al. Impact of pharmacists as immunizers on vaccination rates: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Vaccine. 2016;34(47):5708-5723. doi:10.1016/j.vaccine.2016.08.085
  9. Burson RC, Buttenheim AM, Armstrong A, Feemster KA. Community pharmacies as sites of adult vaccination: A systematic review. Human Vaccines & Immunotherapeutics. 2016;12(12):3146-3159. doi:10.1080/21645515.2016.1215393
  10. World Health Organization. World Immunization Week 2022. https://www.who.int/campaigns/world-immunization-week/world-immunization-week-2022
  11. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. World Immunization Week 2022. https://www.cdc.gov/globalhealth/immunization/world-immunization-week/index.html