Immunizations. Although they’ve been around for hundreds of years, pharmacists have only been officially administering them since the first training group was organized in Seattle, WA, 1994. Since then, guidelines and requirements have expanded to allow pharmacists even more clinical opportunities with immunizations.
Pharmacists are well-equipped to offer this niche service to their patients, which would save patients time and money: their knowledge, patient relationships, and technology set pharmacists up as a source of care beyond dispensing. Read below for ideas and tips for offering immunizations and knowledge to your patients.
Although pediatricians normally administer vaccinations to children in this age group, pharmacists can ensure parents, especially new parents, give their newborns a healthy foundation by keeping their little ones up-to-date on their immunization schedules. Infant vaccinations prevent 14 disease states before the age of 2, so these shots are very important. Childcare centers, preschool programs, and play groups are all environments prone to outbreaks of sickness.
Tip: Create an alert for patients who pick up prescriptions for their younger children. The alert can prompt you to counsel the patient and remind them of the needed immunizations for their child’s age.
Each state enforces different vaccination laws, so make sure your younger patients are protected before heading back to school. Elementary, middle, high school, and college students are all susceptible to the various illnesses that may occur on school campuses: flu, measles, whooping cough, and meningitis. Patients under the age of 18 may still rely on their family physician to provide their shots, but pharmacists may take a proactive role in reminding parents of the vaccines their students may need.
Tip: With STC’s Immslink, pharmacists have access to their state’s immunization records. A quick glance can let you know if a student is up-to-date on their required vaccinations and ready to return to school.
Maternal vaccination is one of the key factors of a safe, healthy pregnancy. Pregnant women need to be aware of all the vaccinations they need before, during, and after pregnancy. At least a month before becoming pregnant, women should consider the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccines. During pregnancy, expecting mothers should get the whooping cough vaccine, flu shot, and the Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis) vaccine. Doctors may recommend certain postpartum vaccinations in order to pass on antibodies to babies through breast milk.
Tip: Expecting mothers often receive a prescription for prenatal vitamins and supplements. Create an alert within your pharmacy dispensing system that reminds you to counsel patients when they are picking up their prenatal vitamins.
All adults need to stay up-to-date on their vaccinations. Their age, health conditions, and occupation may determine which ones they need in order to be protected from potential diseases they may be exposed to. All adults should receive the flu shot annually and the Tdap vaccine once every 10 years. Adults over 50 years old should get the shingles vaccine, and those who are 65 or older should receive both pneumococcal vaccinations. Some adults may need vaccinations for specific situations, such as travel or their home/work environment.
Tip: Facilities such as nursing homes, assisted living, and even nearby penitentiaries are filled with adult patients who require routine vaccinations. Offer your immunization services to the Long Term Care facility you may already dispense for, or begin a collaboration agreement with these facilities that may lead to more care opportunities with them in the future.
As healthcare continues to point towards value-based care, pharmacists are finding more ways to prove their worth to their patients and providers. Immunizations are a great way to initiate practices that may open the door to more enhanced care services in the future.