TORONTO — Pharmacists have the ability to significantly increase vaccination rates in Canada and save the healthcare system money by reducing the number of hospitalizations due to complications from the flu, according to a new report developed by Shoppers Drug Mart.
The Ontario Pharmacists Association, the Pharmacists' Association of Newfoundland and Labrador, the New Brunswick Pharmacists' Association and the Prince Edward Island Pharmacists Association have endorsed the new report, The Sustainable Solutions Report: A Focus on Immunizations.
"We know when pharmacists offer immunization services more people get vaccinated," said Perry Eisenschmid, CEO of the Canadian Pharmacists Association, in support of the report’s recommendations. "It's already happening with great success in many provinces; however, to really make an impact, pharmacists in all provinces should be granted the authority to administer common vaccinations like influenza and tetanus, but we need provincial governments' help to make it happen."
Allowing pharmacists to vaccinate, in addition to physicians and public health, will increase system capacity and immunization rates. According to a report issued by the broader pharmacy community called 9,000 Points of Care: Improving Access to Improving Access to Affordable Healthcare, it is estimated that if pharmacists administered common vaccinations including flu shots, immunization rates for vaccinations like flu shots would increase by 1% to 3% in Canada. This could help to reduce the 75,000 hospital admissions attributed to the flu each year.
Already this flu season in Ontario alone, 446,000 people have received flu vaccinations from pharmacists. These types of activities can result in a 52% reduction in healthcare service costs, helping to avoid hospitalizations for the flu. The average cost for an influenza-related hospital stay of six days is more than C$6,400 and it costs C$220 for an emergency room visit.
"Pharmacists are trusted health care professionals that are easy to access making them a much more convenient choice for many Canadians," stated Domenic Pilla, president and CEO of Shoppers Drug Mart. "Canadians in Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Quebec, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nunavut, Yukon and the Northwest Territories deserve access to this same type of preventative care as those in the rest of the country."
Physicians and Canadians agree. A recent study by the Canadian Pharmacists Association found 48% of Canadians said they would likely choose to get their flu shot at a pharmacy if the service was available in their province; a further 45% said the same of vaccinations overall. A recent survey of physicians showed 61% felt pharmacists in all provinces should be given the authority to vaccinate for flu. Convenience was cited by both groups as the biggest benefit to seeing a pharmacist for vaccinations.
Currently, only pharmacists in British Columbia, Alberta and New Brunswick have the ability to administer a broad range of injections, including influenza, human papillomavirus, hepatitis A or B, tetanus, pneumococcal and diphtheria, while pharmacists in Ontario and Nova Scotia can vaccinate for flu only.
Expanding pharmacists' scope of practice, according to the Sustainable Solutions Report, has other benefits too, including reducing physician workload and wait times. The average family physician wait time is 1.35 days for urgent care and more than three weeks for non-urgent care. Pharmacists can play a key role in relieving pressure on family physicians, helping to free up time for patients with more complex care needs.
There is also a benefit to workplace productivity. The average flu season causes an estimated loss of 1.5 million working days in Canada, resulting in healthcare costs and lost productivity equaling C$1 billion. By ensuring more people remain healthy, pharmacists can help ease the burden if illness on corporate Canada too, the pharmacy retailer stated.