In an interview with Drug Topics®, Jason Ausili, PharmD, chief clinical officer at FDS, discusses the implications of Biden’s recent announcement of shifting vaccine supplies to local pharmacies and solutions to challenges that pharmacies may face, including managing daily responsibilities, patient consults, aligning pharmacy management systems (PMS) with expanded medical billing requirements, and reporting with state vaccine registries.
Drug Topics®: Thinking a little bit into the next few months, now some of these authorized vaccines are starting to go through the process of approval. How can these community pharmacists be prepared for that as well?
Ausili: Yeah, there's a lot of speculation what this is going to look like over the next 6 months or so.
But I think that it's not going away. We still have a portion of our population to get to. There's a big push to get the X percent of people who haven't been vaccinated yet in our communities that may be willing to get vaccinated, we need to get them over the line.
The next step is the recent announcement about the 12 to 15 age group. Pfizer got the emergency use authorization (EUA) for that age group, so I think there's a big effort to get those adolescents vaccinated prior to the new school year happening. That's going to be an interesting and exciting effort over the summer for community pharmacists to help on that front. And I can imagine, beyond that, there's going to be additional studies that may look at younger children under the age of 12. We don't know much about that at this point in time.
But moving forward with the childhood vaccines. During the pandemic, pharmacists were authorized to help children get caught up on their recommended guidelines for vaccines, because they've fallen behind due to the pandemic. A lot of the normal wellness visits, where vaccines would normally be administered, kind of went away for a while because of the pandemic and the concerns on that front. So, pharmacists have a unique opportunity now to also increase the amount of childhood vaccines that they're doing for age groups that they may not have been able to do before, depending on what state they live in.
So over the next 6 months the role pharmacy plays is going to continue to increase. It may not be as high volume, or pockets of high volume, like it was back in the early phase 1 and moving into the general population. But likely boosters will be coming in the future, too. There's been research that shows the mRNA vaccines carry great immunity at 6 to 12 months. But where's that point between 6 and 12 months? We really don't know yet. But a lot of the research shows that boosters are going to be likely.
And there's going to be additional opportunities for pharmacists to play a greater role in vaccinations. And honestly, I'd like to see a larger play in vaccinations overall. I mean, you have you have the COVID piece that we've talked about. You've got the childhood vaccination piece, but now that pharmacists have been activated that may have not been vaccinated before. I think we picked some up along the way during the pandemic that will also be more involved in the pneumonia (flu) season and pneumococcal and Shingrix and the human papillomavirus (HPV). There's a lot of really important vaccines that pharmacists can help with, among other clinical services that are really ripe for the picking right now.
We're seeing pharmacists play a huge role in things like smoking cessation, medication therapy management (MTM) services, oral contraception, and many other public health focused initiatives. So the world is really exciting for pharmacy right now. I just hope, Gabrielle, that now that the bar has been raised, as a profession, we're able to really advocate for removal of the long term barriers and continue to, you know, focus on practice expansion.
Drug Topics®: And what biggest takeaways do you want to leave us with today?
Ausili: Going back to the barriers, there are challenges out there.
The pharmacists are our heroes. I have to commend the courageous efforts of the frontline community pharmacists, who are really proving themselves as the epicenter of care. Pharmacists are the most accessible health care providers, and independent community pharmacists are really located in areas that are hard to reach.
So now that we're trying to refine our efforts to vaccinate the harder to reach parts of the population, community pharmacy is ideally positioned. By overcoming and really listening to your peers. Your peers have really experienced a lot of these challenges and barriers themselves. And there's no other profession like community pharmacy, where talking to your peers and leveraging that network is so beneficial.
The message I want to leave with full Is there are barriers out there. It can be a scary world. But there's people there to help. Leverage your peer network, leverage your pharmacy technology providers, because we have experienced a lot of these same barriers that you're going through. And we've come up with solutions and ways around those barriers - whether it's making some of these vaccination efforts scalable by leveraging and integrating with workflow solutions, making it as turnkey as possible so that you have less manual work to do and more automated work that we're doing for you.
Drug Topics®: Jason, it's been a pleasure. Thanks so much for speaking with me today.
Ausili: Absolutely, Gabrielle. Let me know anytime I can help out and I'd be happy to share my story.