Expert emphasizes that it is important to acknowledge the critical role of pharmacists in overcoming barriers to vaccinations.
Current vaccination rates in the United States for recommended routine immunizations are not even close to 100%, explained Amanda Price, PharmD, BCACP, in a presentation at the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists 2022 Summer Meeting.
Only approximately 25% of US adults are up to date with recommended routine vaccinations, while among adults over 65 years of age, only 63.6% have ever had their recommended pneumococcal vaccination and 56.9% are up to date with their recommended tetanus vaccination. Further, in adults aged 18 to 26 years, only 21.5% have completed the recommended human papillomavirus vaccination series.
“With the understanding that vaccinations are a team sport, it takes all of us working together to work with our patients, our caregivers, and our providers to ensure we recognize the appropriate opportunities for immunizations and that we offer and facilitate those with our patients,” Price said. “I think all of us are aware that vaccines are capable of significantly decreasing morbidity and mortality overall, and yet we continue to struggle.”
With vaccination rates as low as they are in the country, Price noted it is important to acknowledge the critical role of pharmacists in overcoming barriers to vaccinations, influencing and addressing vaccine hesitancy, and improving awareness of the role vaccines play in the fight against diseases that have significantly impacted patient populations globally.
“With all of this, I think it highlights that we have significant barriers to overcome, with the most common being hesitancy, awareness, and patient response. Certainly, there’s also been some politically motivated resistance in the past couple years, leading to changes in the [social] climate regarding vaccinations.” Price said.
Additionally, Price noted that there are other barriers to vaccinations that can occur in the pharmacy setting. Specifically, the stocking and dispensing of vaccines, especially for smaller clinics or smaller environments, can be very cost prohibitive as well.
Furthermore, the adult patient population does not have a universality in recommendations for each patient. There are some age-based recommendations where the majority of patients of that age should receive it, but more commonly there is a risk-based assessment that requires time and attention from clinicians or the provider to identify whether a vaccination is appropriate for a patient.
“So when you add in that additional complexity in the adult patient population, it can make it very challenging to ensure that our patients are vaccinated [sic],” Price said. “In addition, there are some significant health care disparities that take place here, with the understanding that our more complicated patients are often presenting in underrepresented segments of the population, and they may have more complex health care needs. When assisting and managing some of these complex disease states, the providers may not ever get to the wellness portion of that visit, which then pushes that barrier up so we’re not able to overcome this disparity.”
However, Price noted that pharmacists can play a role in addressing this specific area of need for patients. Whether in an inpatient setting, an outpatient clinic setting, or a community-based pharmacy setting, pharmacists can help to bridge the gap in areas where providers may not be able to address a patient’s wellness needs due to the time limitations of their scheduled visit.
Additionally, with patients accessing information about the COVID-19 vaccines on social media that may or may not be fact-based, which is influencing a lot of patients’ decisions, pharmacists can use motivation interviewing to approach some of these topics and support access to accurate and helpful information on vaccines for patients. This type of intervention can allow pharmacists to step into gaps in care that pharmacists are uniquely qualified to meet due to their direct access to patients within communities.
REFERENCE Price A. Vaccination Updates 2022: COVID-19 and Beyond. Presented at: ASHP Summer Meeting 2022; June 12, 2022; Phoenix, AZ.