JULY 2022 – Now that the pandemic has propelled pharmacy front and centre, pharmacists can play a key role in administering vaccines and ensuring patients are sticking to their vaccine regimen.
That was the message expressed during a June webinar hosted by the Canadian Foundation for Pharmacy on “Adherence to multi-dose vaccinations: Lessons learned and where we go from here.”
Hosted by Dr. Sherilyn Houle, Assistant Professor at the University of Waterloo School of Pharmacy, webinar participants revealed many positive pharmacy gains in vaccine administration during the pandemic and the need for these services to keep evolving.
“I had the privilege of giving the first COVID-19 vaccine in a community pharmacy and people were lining up for kilometres to get their vaccines,” said John Papastergiou, owner of four Shoppers Drug Marts in downtown Toronto. “It was an historic moment and great to be part of that.”
In researching factors affecting pharmacist-administered vaccine injection and adherence rates (a research project funded by CFP pre-pandemic), Papastergiou found that only 32% of patients across Canada, regardless of vaccines they were receiving, were able to complete their entire regimen. “We immediately identified an opportunity for pharmacists to be more involved in this [especially] since we can now identify these patients in our databases,” he said. “The pandemic has also helped educate patients that if they’re already picking up the vaccine at the pharmacy, why not get their vaccines here…and free up some time for the family docs as well.”
Glenn Rodrigues, a facilitator in Nova Scotia’s Prescription to Thrive project (supported by CFP), spoke to the benefits of properly operationalizing pharmacy services, such as vaccine administration, to ensure pharmacies could deliver—and pharmacy owners would buy in. “When teams are looking at services they’re providing it’s not just about patient care…but how growth in services contributed to the labour model of the organization,” he said, pointing to the success of the Rx to Thrive model in delivering on both fronts. “By organizing and operationalizing vaccines, there is also a real opportunity to improve adherence rates.”
Given that pharmacies are often the hub of many communities, they are in a great position to assume the responsibility for following up with patients on vaccine adherence, said Suhas Thaleshvar, owner of two Medicine Shoppe Pharmacies in Sherwood Park, Alberta. Whereas pharmacies have systems already in place to trigger call-backs, physicians have to rely more on patient-driven requests. “I always say, if it’s part of your scope don’t assume any other healthcare professional has already told [a patient to get their vaccine],” he said. “If you’re the one who can initiate therapy do it.”
Panelists all agreed that pharmacy technicians can play a key part in improving vaccine adherence, especially in terms of screening and booking patient appointments. “In Nova Scotia, technicians played a big role in our clinics and highlighted that we just don’t have enough of them,” said Rodrigues.
“The regulated pharmacy techs really relieved pharmacists of that checking functionality and played a crucial role in allowing the pharmacist to deal with pandemic-related clinical services,” added Papastergiou. “They are the face of the pharmacy..and play a big role in identifying who is eligible for a vaccine.”
Going forward, Thaleshvar expressed the importance of pharmacists collaborating more with their local public health authority. “Ask them where their stress points are and what community pharmacy can do to help,” he said.
“I think we really can be the innovators in primary care because we are in a country whose healthcare system needs our support,” added Rodrigues.