Vaccination by pharmacists: New York pharmacists train to give flu and pneumonia shots

March 1, 2009

New York phamacists train to administer vaccinations for flu and pneumonia

Key Points

By the end of March, approximately 150 New York State pharmacists will be eligible to administer flu and pneumonia vaccinations after completing a continuing education program offered through the State University of New York at Buffalo School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences (UB).

During a recent session titled "Pharmacy-Based Immunization Delivery," pharmacists learned about vaccines, adverse reactions, vaccine storage and maintenance, record-keeping, marketing, legal and regulatory issues, and emergency issues, as well as epidemiology and disease prevention. At the end of a day spent reviewing written material and videos, pharmacists got down to the real thing, first practicing on oranges to get the feel of how much pressure is needed to break the skin with a needle. Then they administered sterile saline solution injections to each other.

The training session, sponsored by UB and the American Pharmacists' Association, and funded by a grant from Merck, is the first step for pharmacists interested in giving immunizations. The full program consists of three day-long sessions provided through UB.

As of December 2008, pharmacists throughout the state were legally authorized to give flu and pneumonia vaccinations to people 18 and older. The UB School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences had advocated for passage of legislation authorizing pharmacists to administer vaccinations. New York is the 49th state to allow pharmacists to administer shots. Maine is the only state without such a law.

"The biggest reason we and so many others pushed for this is that not enough people are getting flu shots," Fiebelkorn said. "More than 30,000 people in the United States die every year from the flu and pneumonia, and between 4,000 and 6,000 of those deaths are in New York State."

Fiebelkorn, a director of the training session, added that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now recommends flu shots for most members of the population. "The big advantage of pharmacy-based immunization for consumers is the convenience," he said. "They can stop by their pharmacy and get immunized right away at any time, without having to wait for a special in-store clinic or an appointment."

New York State's healthcare providers whose patients want to be vaccinated at pharmacies must furnish pharmacies with individual prescriptions or nonspecific patient orders that give the pharmacist permission to immunize any of a prescriber's patients.