WHAT IT MEANS AND WHY IT'S IMPORTANT — The release by Walgreens of case studies that detail how retail pharmacy can expand access to immunizations is obviously important on several fronts, but it really makes one stop and wonder: What could be done if laws didn't vary by state in terms of what types of vaccinations pharmacists can deliver?
(THE NEWS: Walgreens immunization studies: Pharmacy instrumental in helping states combat disease. For the full story, click here)
The studies demonstrated the impact of three Walgreens initiatives aimed at increasing immunization rates: off-clinic hour vaccine administration (defined as times when traditional physician offices and clinics are closed), a pharmacist-led meningitis vaccination program and expansion of access to immunization services in underserved areas.
The results? Impressive. For example, a pharmacist-led meningitis vaccination program in Texas drove the number of vaccinations provided by Walgreens pharmacists dramatically year over year from 41 in January 2011 to 11,229 in January 2012. The program was implemented in support of a Texas state mandate requiring all college students younger than 30 years of age to be immunized for meningitis before the January 2012 semester and clearly demonstrates that community pharmacies can support state government initiatives and improve public health.
Then there’s pertussis. Many cases of pertussis are not diagnosed and so are not reported. Yet over the past five years, between 10,000 and 27,000 cases have been reported each year. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the last peak year nationally was in 2010 when more than 27,000 cases were reported.
Or what about pneumococcal vaccines? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stated that all adults 65 years of age and older should receive the PPSV vaccine. However, the CDC indicated that the percent of adults 65 years and older who had ever received a pneumococcal vaccination is only 59%.
Again, just imagine what could be done if laws didn't vary by state in terms of what types of vaccinations pharmacists can deliver.
Clearly, there’s a need for greater education on the importance of immunizations and a need for greater access. Lifting the barriers for those pharmacists who practice in states that have such restrictions is a big step in the right direction.