Article by Pharmacy Times

“Amid an evolving health care landscape, pharmacists’ growing role in administering influenza and other vaccines can provide them with new opportunities to enhance their business and improve patient health.

Pharmacists’ scope of practice in immunizing patients has expanded significantly over the past few decades. Although laws and restrictions vary, pharmacists are now authorized to administer vaccines in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico.1 This shift has largely been a boon to patients, who often pay less to be vaccinated at a pharmacy than in a physician’s office.2 Furthermore, patients have found pharmacy-based immunization services to be more convenient and accessible than those offered at other health care settings, according to John Beckner, RPh, the senior director of strategic initiatives at the National Community Pharmacists Association.

“Over the years, [physicians] have relegated [immunizations] to pharmacists for a variety of reasons,” Beckner told Pharmacy Times®. “Given the number of times patients visit pharmacies compared with the number of times they go to a physician’s office, it makes sense for them to get that service at a pharmacy.”

Beckner highlighted independent pharmacies as locations at which immunization services could thrive. Although independent pharmacies have not embraced these services as universally as their chain competitors, he noted, the high loyalty they have earned from their patients makes them ideal for vaccination locations.

“I think, certainly from an independent pharmacy standpoint, it’s all about relationships,” Beckner said. “Independent pharmacies have differentiated themselves over the years by the relationships that they have formed in their communities with patients and other health care providers.”

Independent pharmacists who are just beginning to offer immunization services should start slowly with influenza vaccines and pneumococcal vaccines, Beckner recommended; when they are ready, pharmacists can expand to other vaccines recommended by the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, including those for zoster, tetanus, hepatitis, and measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR). When permitted by state law, pharmacists can also administer the MMR vaccine and other essential childhood vaccines to infants and children. Those who are unable to do so should at least educate parents on the importance of vaccination, he added.”

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