The Evolving Role of Pharmacy Technicians in Immunization Administration

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Pharmacies can position themselves as leaders in immunization services.

In a panel session at the 2024 McKesson ideaShare conference, Karen McNabb, PharmD, owner of McNabb Pharmacy and Shannon Tesini, CPHT, Pharmacy Technician at McNabb, joined Melanie Darrigo, PharmD, vice president, pharmacy retail operations from McKesson, to discuss the unique opportunity for pharmacies to expand their immunization business, ultimately positioning themselves as leaders in immunization services.

Young woman receiving the vaccine for the virus caused by covid 19. Immunization of the population. Fight against the virus - Image credit: lubero | stock.adobe.com

Image credit: lubero | stock.adobe.com

“We already know that pharmacists are the most widely accessible health care provider. We know that the hours in pharmacies are often better for patients to come get their vaccines than they would in a traditional physician setting. We know that has increased patient convenience and that also helps build our relationship with our patients. Overall, adding vaccines can diversify your revenue,” said moderator Darrigo.

Throughout the discussion, the moderator and panelists discussed Health Mart resources for pharmacies that are interested in starting or enhancing their immunization business, training both pharmacists and technicians on immunization practices, including an Immunization Practice Starter and Resource Kit.

For a one-time fee, the Practice Starter solution provides insight to the pharmacy's team at one location to streamline vaccine setup in the pharmacy. This on-demand program features short module-based content covering the critical elements to start an immunization practice and specially designed for pharmacies that are interested in immunizing, new to immunizing, or need to reboot their current immunization program. The Resource Kit contains downloadable forms, references, and links to resources covering many immunizing practice needs. This online resource is available at no charge to all Health Mart at myHealthMart.com.

As a Health Mart pharmacy and independent drugstore, McNabb Pharmacy located in Townsend, Massachusetts, discussed the value immunizations can bring for the business of pharmacy as well as for their staff. A concept they hadn’t explored prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.

When the COVID-19 pandemic struck in 2020, McNabb Pharmacy faced uncertainties and fears. In response, McNabb offered her staff the option to retire, resulting in a significant loss of personnel. However, the implementation of the PREP Act in 2020, which allowed pharmacy technicians to administer vaccines, proved instrumental in facilitating the pharmacy's response to the pandemic and the subsequent vaccine rollout.

“I had two of my nationally certified technicians get that training, and they were certified by February of 2021. I feel like for my technicians that really was their untapped potential.,” said McNabb.

Tesini manages about 90% of in-store vaccinations, as she provides many of the most common immunizations, such as for flu, COVID-19, pneumonia, shingles, and RSV. McNabb Pharmacy has set a direct line through their phone system, which allows the call to go directly to Tesini.

Tesini received her immunization certification through the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board. However, she noted that requirements to become a technician immunizer include being up-to-date with a completed CPR certification program, working at least 5 hours as a licensed pharmacy technician, and participating in an Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education approved training program.

Tesini partook in a training developed by the American Pharmacists Association (APhA) and the Massachusetts Independent Pharmacy Association. It was a 6-hour online course which was passed following the completion of an immunization technique assessment under the supervision of a pharmacist. In the training, Tesini noted that she learned the importance of vaccine storage and administration, expiration dates, how long a vaccine can be kept at room temperature, and different needle sizes.

“A challenge for me was working for the pharmacy for such a long time and [thinking] that immunizations were never going to be something that I ever had to deal with, and then realizing that it is going to be an everyday part of my job description was absolutely terrifying. At first, I couldn't imagine giving a vaccine, but you get that comfort level and build the relationships with patients, and it really makes it a lot easier,” said Tesini.

Tesini noted that it’s very rewarding to gain trust and comfortability with patients she is vaccinating—making it easier for both her and the patient.

For more information and help setting up an immunization program, pharmacies can email: vaccineprograms@mckesson.com.

Reference
Darrigo M. McNabb K. Tesini S. Immunization Nation: How to Build a Robust Immunization Practice. Presented At: McKesson ideaShare. June 23 – June 26, 2024; New Orleans, Louisiana.

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