In part 2 of our interview, Kathleen Jaeger, NACDS senior vice president of pharmacy care and patient advocacy, offers key insights on a recent NY law that allows pharmacists to administer a COVID-19 vaccine once it becomes available.
Drug Topics®: Before we get into the New York law and its implications specifically, can you talk a little bit about NACDS and what work the association has been doing during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Jaeger: Absolutely. Well, at NACDS we represent thousands of stores across America, and actually we have stores in every community. Americans live within 5 miles of 1 of our stores. We have been working very hard and diligently throughout this pandemic to ensure that communities are actually able to stay healthy, and able to have the necessary treatments they need, whether we're talking about COVID directly or we're talking about chronic care for illnesses such as diabetes or hypertension.
We have been there every step of the way for our communities, and we couldn't thank our health care professionals and our teams enough. They've been such great heroes on the front line during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Drug Topics®: Should we expect low numbers of vaccinations that we've been recently seeing, for the COVID-19 vaccine? Or will we see higher rates of COVID-19 vaccinations compared to current vaccination rates?
Jaeger: Everyone has different speculations, but I believe now we're going to see a surge in the flu vaccine this year. I think because everyone's realizing there's a big crossover between the flu and COVID, and also the implications of having both at the same time would not be good. I think people are realizing that they definitely need to get their flu vaccine this year.
At the same time, I also think they realize that they're going to need to get the COVID-19 vaccine, and that way they can not only help themselves and their families, but also their communities. It's important that everyone get their vaccine.
Drug Topics®: You mentioned that pharmacists are willing and able to expand their resources to provide this testing, and studies have confirmed this as well. But there's also long-standing barriers, such as reimbursements and the need for DIR reform, that place a lot of burden on pharmacies and make it difficult to meet these demands. NACDS mentioned operational flexibilities in that press release as well in order to adjust to an unexpectedly compressed and early flu season. What are some of the challenges or barriers that may be standing in the way of being able to effectively care for their patients in a pandemic?
Jaeger: Those are all very good points. At the end of the day, we need to be able to have access and we need to have reimbursement to make sure that these are sustainable business models, and sustainable public health models as well. We are working with the federal government as well as the states to ensure that everyone will have access to the vaccine.
So again, COVID-19 actually has really put a spotlight on vulnerable populations and medically underserved communities. We need to make sure that those that need these vaccines the most actually have the ability to get them and get them quickly. And that allows for the distribution of those vaccines.
Everyone needs to be a little bit more innovative in terms of looking at how we can all work together, the private public partnerships can work together, whether it's the health insurers and government and any third party payers like Medicaid, to ensure that there's reimbursement, sufficient reimbursement, to cover the costs for these programs. This is absolutely key, so that we can deliver these across the nation, from the most urban settings to the most extensive rural settings. It’s very important that we get this reimbursement concept down, not only for the COVID-19 vaccine, but also for testing, as well, in COVID-19 testing situations.
Drug Topics®: And then I realize this is the million-dollar question, but when would you expect to see a vaccine become available to the public?
Jaeger: I think that's a great question. And I think the only individuals that can probably answer that definitively would probably be individuals like Dr. Fauci and others.
I do believe that there's a lot of great work being done in the vaccination space. A lot of companies, pharmaceutical companies, have jumped in and are really moving. This is a global pandemic, and everyone's trying to help solve the problem. I do believe we're going to see vaccines and phase 3 trials this fall, but that will be under an authorized vaccine distribution concept, whether it be through NIH or through an FDA phase 3 trial.
As to a commercial vaccine, we're probably looking at next year. I think Dr. Fauci said it best. He said from a commercial side, it's going to take a little longer to get it through to fruition. There's a lot of different components, like we've learned in the testing world: you need to have the syringes, you need to have the capability to manufacture these enormous quantities. At the same time, you're talking about, again, the global population, and everyone, all the countries wanting the same vaccine the exact same time.
It's going to be quite challenging and quite complex to get through that maze. But I do believe that we're going to it's probably going to be the most accelerated vaccine I've ever seen. And that's wonderful, and that is promising.
Drug Topics®: And so those are the questions that I have. Are there any last takeaways that you want our audience to take from this interview?
Jaeger: That it is also very essential that as we move forward with vaccines and treatments for COVID-19, we also then need to pay attention to the flu. As I mentioned, we need to ensure that we have the education for the population for flu. But we also then also need to move into for those that decided not to get their flu vaccine, we also need to ensure that we can do the test to treat for flu in community pharmacies as well. And so that way, if someone does come in with the flu, they're able to get that definitive point of care test. And then if it's positive, get that Tamiflu and get them home.
Again, we're trying to minimize the spread of the flu and COVID-19 especially for all the vulnerable populations out there. And it's going to be a very, very tight flu and COVID-19 season coming up this fall and through to the spring.
Everything we can do to prevent the spread and everything we can do to treat, whether it's COVID-19 or flu, should be done, too. As more treatments become available for COVID-19, pharmacies also should have the authority and be reimbursed for those treatments as well.
Drug Topics®: Kathleen Jaeger, thank you so much for joining me today.
Jaeger: Oh, it was my pleasure. Thank you