Flu vaccinations can take up lots of your already-busy schedule, but that doesn’t mean they’re not important.
Pharmacists can play an important role during flu season through vaccine administration and education. Available vaccines include standard dose, high-dose (65 and older), adjuvant (65 and older), cell-based, recombinant, and live-attenuated (nasal spray).
The last flu season was bad and this one may be bad as well. However, the vaccines are predicted to be a better match to the circulating strains. While many pharmacists worry about the time constraints caused by yet another thing to do, there are many ways to simplify vaccine administration and still make a positive impact this season.
Here are five tips for making flu season easier in the pharmacy:
1. Have Key Flu Vaccine Talking Points Ready
The CDC recommends getting vaccinated early, before flu season begins-preferably by the end of October. Remind patients that it takes about two weeks after vaccination to develop protective antibodies. I tell vaccine-hesitant parents that, according to the CDC’s summary of the 2017-2018 flu season, there were 180 pediatric deaths last season. Of those deaths, about 80% occurred in children who did not receive a flu shot. And don’t just rely on yourself to give out this info-Pharmacy interns can provide patient education and answer drug information questions, which can enhance their clinical skills and ease your work flow.
2. Know What’s New This Season
The CDC is recommending the nasal spray as an option for non-pregnant healthy individuals two through 49 years of age this season. However, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends the inactivated flu vaccine due to efficacy concerns with the nasal spray. The FDA just released nasal spray vaccine for distribution. Pharmacists practicing in states that can vaccinate children should first offer the inactivated vaccine and only provide the nasal spray to those who would otherwise refuse the flu shot.
3. Establish Work Flow Strategies with Your Staff
When the pharmacy is busy, technicians and pharmacy interns can be a lifesaver! If patients stop by to let you know they are coming in the next day for a flu vaccine, then give them the forms to complete at home so that their wait time is shortened.
Technicians can do all of the insurance processing so that you can focus on giving the flu vaccine. Pharmacy interns can administer vaccines in many states, so you can supervise them during the process and provide patient counseling on the most common adverse effects, which include pain or swelling at the injection site and low-grade fever. Pharmacy technicians in Idaho can now administer vaccines, which can ease work flow and enable pharmacists to focus on patient counseling.
Be Honest with Patients and Prioritize
Encourage patients to come during a pharmacist overlap if you have one. Some pharmacies with lower prescription volumes have one pharmacist per day and limited technician hours.
A long line of patients can be overwhelming, but it is important to focus on the task you are completing first to prevent an error. If a patient is waiting for an antibiotic then prioritize and get that ready first before administering a flu vaccine. Be honest and let your patients know the timeframe that works best for you and have them complete the paperwork and do any shopping in the meantime.
Establish a Connection with Your Patients
Giving flu vaccines is a great way to get to know your patients. They can also see firsthand how pharmacists play an important role in direct patient care. This will make the season more enjoyable to both patients and pharmacists. Good luck this flu season, and know you are making a difference!