An ounce of prevention

August 15, 2011

Across the country, pharmacists are helping prevent the spread of disease in their communities by advocating and administering vaccinations to keep people healthy.

Key Points

Across the country, pharmacists are assuming a new role in healthcare delivery. They are helping prevent the spread of disease in their communities by advocating and administering vaccinations to keep people healthy.

From offering simple influenza vaccines, many pharmacy immunization programs have expanded to include a wide range of vaccinations, such as those for hepatitis B, human papillomavirus (HPV), and shingles.

The pharmacist's new role is not without its challenges, however. Now, more than ever, pharmacists have to remain diligent about changes to immunization recommendations. And those pharmacists who choose to administer vaccines must find ways to integrate this new service into their workload.

Each year the immunization industry evolves, and pharmacists are charged with the task of staying informed. As new research and cost-effectiveness data are developed, vaccination recommendations often change. This year is no exception, and the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has released a new recommended schedule of adult vaccinations for 2011. It includes several revised guidelines for popular vaccines, including the influenza, HPV, and meningococcal vaccinations.

Under the new schedule, the annual influenza vaccination is now recommended for everyone older than 6 months. In addition, the 2-dose series of meningococcal vaccine is recommended for adults with certain high-risk medical conditions that include anatomic or functional asplenia, persistent complement component deficiencies, and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).

Changes also were made to the tetanus, diphtheria, and acellular pertussis (Tdap) recommendations. ACIP issued a permissive recommendation for adults 65 years of age and older and also recommended that the vaccine be administered regardless of how much time has elapsed since the most recent vaccine containing tetanus and diphtheria toxoids (Td) was given.

The new vaccination schedule was approved by ACIP members in October 2010. The committee met again in June to discuss further recommendations.