University Offers COVID-19 Vaccination Training to All Pharmacists, Technicians

Alana Hippensteele, Editor

Pharmacy Careers, Spring 2021, Volume 15, Issue 1

To accelerate the national COVID-19 vaccination campaign, Husson University in Bangor, Maine, has announced that it will provide training to any pharmacist, technicians, or intern.

Vaccinating more than 328 million Americans against coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) will take many health care professionals. To accelerate the national vaccination campaign, Husson University (HU) in Bangor, Maine, has announced that it will provide training to any pharmacist, pharmacy technician, or pharmacy intern, regardless of whether they are enrolled at HU.

Pharmacists, pharmacy technicians, and interns are authorized to administer COVID-19 vaccines to the public under the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness (PREP) Act. HU is offering 2 nationally approved educational options to support these professionals in their vaccination efforts.

The first option is a 6-hour course designed for pharmacy technicians that teaches them how to administer the vaccine and respond appropriately to different emergencies that may arise in the pharmacy setting.

The second option is a 20-hour course available to licensed pharmacists and interns. This course also educates its participants on how to administer the vaccines and respond to potential emergencies. Additionally, it includes information on the use of the different vaccines available, as well as their indications and contraindications.

"Husson University has traditionally worked with our clinical partners to provide flu shots in past years," said Kelsie Snow, PharmD, an assistant professor at Husson University's School of Pharmacy, in a prepared statement. "This year, we are working in much the same way to provide the COVID-19 vaccinations to as many people as we can."

Each course of study has an asynchronous self-study component that should be completed before attending the in-person component. An evaluation of the ability to vaccinate is later completed by Snow, who is licensed and authorized by the American Pharmacists Association (APhA) to ensure adherence.

HU is offering the courses twice a month, although the university noted that it is willing to provide additional classes at a convenient time and location based on the needs of local pharmacies and hospitals.

"We are also looking into holding these courses in different locations around the state to minimize [the] need. to travel. Maine is an awfully large state, and we want to do all that we can to facilitate the response to the public health crisis," Snow said.

Additionally, the dean of the College of Health and Pharmacy at HU, Rhonda Waskiewicz, EdD, OT, explained in an interview with Pharmacy Times that pharmacies provide critical access to health care for communities in Maine's rural central and northern regions.

"More than half of the 16 counties have a population density between 4 and 75 [individuals] per square mile. For many residents, pharmacies are the closest health care option, and [they] still may be a 45-minute drive. Additionally, Maine does not require pharmacy technicians to be certified, although many are, so being able to complete an [Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education]-approved certification course for vaccination is critical," Waskiewicz said.

For these reasons, HU School of Pharmacy chose to focus on training pharmacy technicians while also offering classes to licensed pharmacists and interns who have not been certified or who need recertification to administer vaccinations.

"We are currently holding classes on campus and are working with our regional partners to determine if and when we travel to more rural sites to provide training," Wakiewicz said.

The ability for pharmacists and pharmacy technicians to administer vaccines was made possible by Congress in 2020 with the passage of the PREP Act. Before the PREP Act, pharmacy technicians were not authorized to administer vaccines to the public. Today, pharmacy technicians can receive the training necessary to provide this critical health care service during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Additionally, recent legislation has expanded the types of vaccines that pharmacy personnel can administer and order. Now pharmacy personnel can give routine immunizations to children, which previously was done only at pediatrician offices.

"Husson University has provided pharmacy students with training in providing immunizations for years. Now we're expanding the training to get students involved earlier," Waskiewicz said. "Being educated as a health care professional in such a turbulent, unprecedented time is both challenging and rewarding. This process to take a more active role in patient care. One of the major challenges posed by the restrictions of COVID-19 is restricted access to care, and this is one of the ways Husson is working to eliminate those barriers."

In an interview with Pharmacy Times, Snow explained that HU will remain dedicated to providing these training options for as long as necessary and that faculty are willing to travel to participants to ensure they have access to the course.

"In addition to providing the accredited APhA programs for vaccination certification, we also work to put together educational materials that are more focused, if desired," Snow said. "For instance, my colleagues Drs Brian McCullough and James Singletary are [holding] an educational talk specifically concerning the COVID-19 vaccinations via Zoom."

Although there is the possibility of attending a portion of the courses virtually, there remains a required in-person, hands-on component that must be demonstrated in order to become certified.

"This typically entails having a pharmacist [who] is already certified to observe and evaluate the injection technique of the participant," Snow said. "APhA has issued specific guidance and instructions that must be followed for remote participants."

Waskiewicz noted that HU School of Pharmacy's dedication to train and educate a COVID-19 vaccination army is mission driven.

"Husson University School of Pharmacy's mission is to educate and mentor future practitioners in a collaborative and supportive environment to deliver and improve regional health care," Waskiewicz said. "In this care, it translates to our faculty and administration collaborating with university, community, and regional colleagues to shape the profession's ability to respond to COVID-19 through education and preparedness."

For more information on enrollment and the necessary course components, contact Kelsie Snow at snowke@husson.edu.

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