Study On Pharmacy Vaccination Rates Encourages Collaboration With Other Medical Providers

August 31, 2020
Jill Sederstrom
Jill Sederstrom

Jill Sederstrom is a Contributing Editor

Results of a new study on immunization rates and current barriers at Wisconsin pharmacies demonstrated that collaborating with physicians could provide significant benefits to patients.

Results of a new study on immunization rates and current barriers at Wisconsin pharmacies demonstrated that collaborating with physicians could provide significant benefits to patients.

The study, which appeared in the June issue of Vaccine, reported the most common vaccines administered in pharmacy settings, identified the biggest barriers to increasing vaccination rates in the pharmacy setting, and stressed the importance of collaboration with other medical providers.

“Having physicians and colleagues as allies is essential,” lead author Philip C. Berce, PharmD, told Drug Topics®.

Investigators used data from the Wisconsin Immunization Registry to determine the number of vaccinations provided to patients who were over the age of 6 years old from July 2017 to July 2018.

According to the study, 39% of zoster vaccines and 20% of influenza vaccines were administered in pharmacy settings across the state. Pharmacies were responsible for the lowest proportion of vaccine doses—at just 0.2%--for the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine.

Although the majority of pharmacies (84%) reported stocking influenza vaccines, just 21% reported having the HPV vaccine in stock.

The study also used survey data from 236 Wisconsin pharmacists who were asked about their attitudes on vaccination and the biggest barriers they face. 

Berce said the biggest barriers most pharmacists reported were related to billing and reimbursements.

“Despite the barriers, community pharmacies have significant potential to address vaccination gaps,” the study’s authors wrote. “Physicians, patient and legislative bodies are generally well-accepting of pharmacists as immunizers. Pharmacists, in order to be fully utilized as immunizers, must engage in active communication with patients and be willing to collaborate with physicians.”

Berce said pharmacists can work to overcome existing barriers by working with patients to advocate to their insurer and adopting patient-centric approaches, where patients are able to choose where and when they want vaccinations rather than being provider-centric.

“Our team is a collaboration between a school of pharmacy, endowment through a medical school, and a state pharmacy association—given what we are seeing at the national level, I’m thankful for our collaborative ‘immunization neighborhood’ approach in Wisconsin,” he said, adding that everyone needs to work together to improve immunization rates.

Pharmacists are often the most accessible health care provider and have the potential to make a valuable impact on improving vaccination rates, he said.

To best address patient needs, Berce said some pharmacies may need to reimagine workflow to allow for more time with patients who may be interested in vaccinations.

Although the individual roles of pharmacists and physicians may differ, Berce said they “share the same goals” and are each “well-suited to address immunization issues.”

“Collaboration works,” he said.

Reference

Berce PC, Bernstein RS, MacKinnon GE. Immunizations at Wisconsin pharmacies: results of a statewide vaccine registry analysis and pharmacist survey. Vaccine. 2020. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.vaccine.2020.04.043