Pharmacists provide link in pertussis vaccination drive

Retailers can communicate with customers in ways government can't

WHAT IT MEANS AND WHY IT'S IMPORTANT — The dramatic expansion in the number of pharmacists who can give vaccinations and the range of vaccinations they can deliver has occurred just as an epidemic of whooping cough has spread across the country.

(THE NEWS: NACDS: Pharmacists as vaccinators are key in battle against whooping cough. For the full story, click here.)

The H1N1 swine flu pandemic was arguably the first test of the ability of pharmacies and retail clinics to stanch an epidemic through vaccinations, and overall, they performed well on it. The spread of whooping cough, also known as pertussis, presents another test.

In this case, it's a matter not just of delivering the vaccine to children and adults, but communicating to people — particularly adults who will have contact with small children — why the pertussis vaccine is necessary. In some respects, pertussis doesn't quite carry the urgency of pandemic flu; one way to convince people to get flu vaccinations was to remind them of the 1918 influenza pandemic, which took millions of lives around the world, but while pertussis once was a great scourge that killed and hospitalized many children, it never reached the level of horror that the 1918 flu pandemic did.

This is an area where pharmacists can reach people in ways that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other government health authorities can't. People go to drug stores all the time to buy a wide range of items, and it's while they're shopping that retailers can remind them of the need to get vaccinated.

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