Pharmacists are underestimated as immunizers in pandemic planning, study says

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Researchers recommend pharmacists’ role in preparedness efforts become more formalized

A study published in the journal Vaccine reports that while nearly 90% of jurisdictions with pandemic vaccine distribution plans intend to include pharmacists in pandemic influenza immunization efforts, only about 31% have established formal relationships integrating pharmacists’ services. Information gaps also inhibit full leveraging of the care pharmacies and pharmacists can provide during an influenza pandemic—even though one in four patients now receive their influenza immunizations at pharmacies.

Integrating pharmacies into public health program planning for pandemic influenza vaccine response used CDC data from states and cities that receive emergency preparation and immunization funding to assess the current relationships between public health planning programs and pharmacies. While researchers determined that CDC and most public health programs consider pharmacies and pharmacists to be valuable partners in influenza pandemic planning, these stakeholders still must address gaps in identifying and recruiting pharmacy participants; inconsistent allocation and distribution of pandemic immunizations for pharmacies and limited data on their storage and handling capacity; insufficient guidance on how to deal with uninsured patients during a pandemic; and the relatively small number of formal agreements and memoranda of understanding (MOUs).

To encourage early and ongoing participation of pharmacies in pandemic influenza plans, the authors recommend use of the MOU template developed by the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials in collaboration with representatives from CDC, APhA, the National Association of Chain Drug Stores, the National Alliance of State Pharmacy Associations, and other stakeholders. To access the MOU template, visit www.pharmacist.com/pharmacy-and-public-health-collaboration.

“The MOU provides a vehicle for pharmacy and public health to collaborate on activities that will increase public access to immunization services,” according to APhA Chief Strategy Officer Mitchel Rothholz, BSPharm, MBA. “This activity is an important component to the success of the immunization neighborhood.”

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