The panel provides strategic approaches to address pediatric vaccine schedules, with an emphasis on influenza vaccination.
Mitchel Rothholz, RPh, MBA: Let’s delve more into the impact on childhood vaccines. The flu vaccine is recommended for individuals 6 months and older. As we’re coming into this flu season and we’ve got the COVID-19 vaccine now available for that younger age group, and we’re going to have the influenza, how should pharmacists interact with parents and caregivers about the influenza vaccine for their children and for themselves? John, you opened the door for this discussion point. How should pharmacists approach that with their patients?
John Beckner, RPh: Over the years, technology has advanced on many fronts, and vaccines are a big part of that. Vaccines are more effective. There are fewer adverse effects. They’re very safe, and pharmacists are in a great position to be able to communicate those facts to parents so they can get vaccinated themselves to protect themselves and encourage vaccination among their children.
Mitchel Rothholz, RPh, MBA: Jeff, do you have anything to add on that?
Jeff Goad, PharmD, MPH: It’s a new environment for children in pharmacies, and it’s a new opportunity for pharmacists to engage with parents and children. The adolescent was our first foray into that. There were 3 vaccines for 11- to 12-year-olds. It was an introduction on how to talk with a parent about a patient. We’re normally talking directly to the patient. Childhood vaccinations are an image issue that we need to address.
Getting pediatricians on board [can help]. We have pediatric vaccine schedules. They’re predefined at 2, 4, and 6 months. The influenza vaccine follows a seasonal schedule, but the COVID-19 vaccine doesn’t follow any schedule. It doesn’t fit any of those. With pediatricians not being a part of the original rollout for COVID-19 vaccination, it’s going to be difficult for them and for us to create a sense of urgency or deadline to get vaccinated when there isn’t one. When there aren’t school mandates, it’s challenging.
Pediatricians and pharmacists will have to use the current schedule and the opportunity that avails itself. When a patient comes in for a flu shot, talk about COVID-19 at that time because there may not be another opportunity to talk with them about that. Or talk about it if you’re making recommendations on other routine vaccines. That goes for the pediatrician. They don’t have COVID-19 [vaccines], but when they’re seeing a patient for routine vaccines, get them plugged into the pharmacy. We need better collaboration. This is part of the 3 Cs. Communication and collaboration [and coordination] are important across the different disciplines, probably more so now than ever with COVID-19 vaccines approved for ages 6 months and up.
Randy McDonough, PharmD, MS, BCGP, BCPS, FAPhA: Mitch, today at our practice, we talked about making sure that when patients are in front of us, that’s when we do what we can to inform them of the vaccines they’re eligible for. The entry might be the COVID-19 vaccine. As soon as they gave us the approval, we started vaccinating children 6 months of age and older. But I’m concerned about moving into this flu season because people have gotten lax on the flu shot because of preventive measures.
Last year, there wasn’t a strong flu season. I think this is going to be a strong flu season. We’re already seeing the variants and increase in COVID-19 viruses that people are contracting. I have a couple of family members who have already contracted it. The president [of the United States] got COVID-19. We’re seeing that in more people, and we’ve lessened some of the societal preventive measures. People are getting into large groups again. That’s going to make flu spread. It’s going to be important to hit this thing hard with families to make sure it isn’t just older individuals who are getting the flu shots along with the COVID-19 or other vaccines, that it’s all the way down the line to the youngest child at 6 months of age and older. We need to make sure everybody is protected because I do think this is going to be a challenging season.
Mitchel Rothholz, RPh, MBA: With the under age 5 COVID-19 vaccine recommendation, the uptake isn’t what was hoped for. I think in late August, preschool season, we’re going to suddenly see individuals go to practitioners to get their COVID-19 vaccine done and potentially look for the influenza vaccine at the same time.
Transcript edited for clarity.