It’s been more than 200 years since the first successful test of a vaccine against smallpox, and since then, vaccines have become one of the most important means of preventing and eradicating infectious diseases, ranging from minor ailments like the flu to devastating ones like polio.
Technological development in this area has continued and expanded to include not only vaccines against infectious diseases, but also therapeutic vaccines against cancers and some autoimmune disorders. Last month, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America released a report showing 295 vaccines in development against a wide variety of diseases, including 170 for infectious diseases, 102 for cancers and eight for neurological disorders, mostly Alzheimer’s disease, as well as multiple sclerosis.
In addition to their potential for fighting disease, vaccines also have opened up opportunities for pharmacy retailers. All 50 states now allow pharmacists to perform vaccinations, usually for such diseases as the flu and shingles, and pharmacies large and small have been busy sending their pharmacists to continuing education classes so they qualify to administer vaccinations. By now, customers at most of the major chains can simply walk in and get a vaccination, whereas before it required a visit to the doctor’s office.
Along the way, many new innovations have appeared as well. Retail clinics have been expanding their selection of vaccinations, which include immunizations against hepatitis, pneumonia, meningitis, pertussis and human papillomavirus. Meanwhile, some retail pharmacies have expanded their offerings as well. Bartell Drugs, a regional chain based in Seattle, offers travel clinics where customers can get vaccinated against diseases they might risk contracting abroad, such as hepatitis A and B and typhoid. Meanwhile, Good Neighbor Pharmacy, under a partnership with the University of Southern California, has been letting pharmacists enroll in an international travel health program for pharmacists who have received certification to administer specific immunizations and vaccines in their states.
More vaccinations also mean more patient data. Walgreens has a program with SureScripts that allows it to use the SureScripts e-prescribing network to share immunization data with patients’ primary care providers, and it plans to share the data with public health authorities later this year.