Jason Ausili, PharmD, highlights President Biden's expectations for community pharmacies amid the COVID-19 vaccination effort.
Drug Topics®: First, Jason, can you give us your background in pharmacy and a bit about FDS and your role there as well?
Ausili: Absolutely. Thanks for asking Gabrielle. I've been with FDS – I’ll start at the top and then work my way backwards. I think that'll work a little better. I've been with FDS now for about, almost 5 years.
I started off in the product management world. And now I'm the chief clinical officer, where I oversee our clinical vision. And that's been really exciting during the pandemic, as we're helping pharmacists mobilize, not only as COVID-19 testers and vaccinators, but providing more advanced clinical services to their communities.
I started off in community pharmacy, I worked for a retail chain through school. And then right out of school, I got the opportunity to move to the chain headquarters, where I got to work on technology projects, so I got my feet wet in technology, as you could say. One thing led to the next, I got involved in health care quality, and focusing on star ratings and patient outcomes, which opened up a whole new world in my in my career. And that led to my next step, where I worked for a trade association in the Washington DC area that represents retail pharmacies from a trade perspective. I missed the technology world after working in the trade association space for a couple years, so that led me back to FDS. I get to, again, focus on how to leverage technology to solve business and clinical problems and help advance pharmacists as the community care givers that they are.
Drug Topics®: Tell us about what the latest updates have been on the COVID vaccination front, particularly President Biden's plans for community pharmacies.
Ausili: Yeah, obviously the information is dynamically changing. And we've all been kind of riding the COVID-19 roller coaster for the past 6 months now.
A lot of the information has removed barriers for pharmacy, which has been amazing. Additionally, the HHS authorizations that opened up COVID-19 vaccines to pharmacist and their pharmacy staff, the childhood vaccine expansion.
And now recently, President Biden's approach at expanding, getting to the goal of at least 1 shot in the population - at least the adult population - in 70% of the population by July 4. So that's pretty amazing goal considering we’re at - I just checked today, the CDC site said 60% of the adult population has been has gotten at least one shot, so we've got a ways to go.
Also, Biden mentioned, well, how are you going to get to that number? And really, that shifts more to the state and local areas in which pharmacies, especially community pharmacies, are ideally positioned to help their communities. There's a good portion of the population that still needs a shot. Maybe some folks are definitely not going to get it, whereas others are still waiting to see. But there's no better resource in the community pharmacists to educate and advocate for COVID-19 vaccinations.
Drug Topics®: And you mentioned that pharmacists are uniquely positioned to address some of those more high-risk communities. Can you tell us a little bit more on that and how, especially with certain ethnic minorities, etc.?
Ausili: Yes sure. I’m going to refer, Gabrielle, to the National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA) Digest, which listed 77% of independents are in areas of population less than 50,000.
Also, they go on to say 21% of US zip codes have only a community pharmacy within their reach to get a vaccine. So that really shows that our independent community pharmacies are likely the best place to get a vaccine in those medically underserved and rural populations.
So obviously, so many pharmacies across the country have done an amazing job vaccinating their communities up to this point. They really are our heroes. And I've never been prouder of the profession and being a pharmacist, myself, than really any other time in history.
This does not come without challenges, though. COVID-19 has put community pharmacies in the spotlight - a phenomenal position to highlight what they can bring to their communities.
But as testing ramped up, it quickly evolved into one of the most massive vaccination efforts that our nation has ever seen, at least in most of our lifetimes. So that does not come without challenges. And we've been keeping a pulse and talking regularly with our community pharmacists on what barriers they are running into and how can we help leverage technology to get them over those barriers.