Adding another responsibility: Public health

August 15, 2010

Many pharmacies across the country have adopted new policies and procedures that focus more on patient care and outcomes. Included among these new options is administration of vaccines.

Key Points

Forget about simply filling prescriptions - today's community pharmacists have moved from behind the counter to the front lines of healthcare delivery.

Armed with additional education and an industry push to move past what some have described as the "count, pour, lick, and stick" approach to retail and community-based pharmacy, many pharmacies across the country have adopted new policies and procedures that focus more on patient care and outcomes.

One of the most notable of these changes is the authority pharmacists now have to administer vaccinations to their patients. All 50 states, as well as Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia, now give pharmacists the right to administer influenza vaccines, and some states allow other types of vaccination as well.

During an online survey conducted in May, Drug Topics found that 54% of the 254 pharmacists responding to the poll were planning to become certified to vaccinate, while 41% said that their employers were not requiring them to obtain certification.

This new responsibility has been embraced by some professionals as a tangible way to demonstrate the value pharmacists can provide in the healthcare arena, but others have expressed reservations about adding vaccination to the menu of services their pharmacies already offer.

Such reservations can range from concerns about incurring additional liability to frustration that pharmacists are being asked to do more for no additional compensation.

The road to immunization

Shalala wanted to increase the vaccination rate among Americans and she saw local pharmacies as one means by which this might be accomplished, since pharmacists already possess medical knowledge and are accessible in locations convenient for most patients.

Since then, APhA has been working hard to advocate for legislation that gives pharmacists the authority to administer vaccinations at retail and community store settings. It also created an extensive training program that educates pharmacists about vaccinations used throughout the lifespan and offers hands-on experience in administering injections.

Pharmacists can serve as complementary providers of immunization, Rothholz said. In some cases, because of their extended hours and increased accessibility, pharmacies may be more convenient for patients than traditional medical offices.

"Pharmacists are just like other providers within the community, so when they are doing immunizations they are not doing them any differently than a nurse in the community does it, but we are a permanent access point for the public, versus clinics that may show up and then they are done for the day and move on," he said.