Flu season is here, meaning it is a great time to evaluate your status as an immunization provider. Since pharmacists are the most accessible healthcare professionals, we are valued members in our communities. Expanded scope and authority have provided pharmacists the ability to impact the availability and utilization of vaccines to a patient base that may not have otherwise been immunized.
The American Pharmacists Association (APhA) has been the driving force of pharmacist-administered immunizations for 20 years with their Pharmacy-Based Immunization Certificate Training Program. Their website includes the Immunization Center, which provides the most recent news, tools and resources for immunizing pharmacists. Some states have increased vaccination rates with physician-approved protocols, while others have seen the value in allowing pharmacists to screen, prescribe and administer vaccines. In 2013, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and its Centers for Disease Control (CDC) applauded the accomplishments of the pharmacy profession and the APhA for improving the health of our communities by reducing the risks of vaccine-preventable diseases.1
Immunization programs have allowed independent pharmacists to increase their patient base while serving a critical healthcare need. Many physicians have reduced the spectrum of immunizations they offer. This may be due to decreased reimbursement, reporting requirements, storage requirements and/or increased workload. A number of pharmacists have broadened their immunization programs outside the traditional pharmacy setting by providing on-site immunizations at businesses, churches, civic group meetings and schools. Making vaccinations more accessible by removing travel barriers improves overall vaccination rates which leads to decreasing overall costs to the healthcare system.
Most states have an immunization information system or registry where pharmacists are required to record administered vaccines. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is focusing on the communication between these registries and Electronic Health Records to improve access to this information across the healthcare system. Pharmacists’ access to these registries provides valuable information as we counsel patients on medications and monitor their immunization histories and statuses. The registry maintains a current immunization report of all recorded immunizations for us to provide to patients. Patient reminders, during pharmacy visits, improve vaccination rates as well and also serve as a great customer service tool.
Pharmacists have access to the immunization status of their patients. The CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) influenza recommendation is that a licensed, age-appropriate vaccine be administered to all persons aged six months or older.2 Influenza vaccinations should be offered before the onset of influenza activity and should continue to be offered as long as influenza viruses are being reported.
The National Vaccine Advisory Committee (NVAC) revised the Standards for Adult Immunization Practice. The new standards call on “all healthcare professionals – whether they provide vaccinations or not – to take steps to help ensure their adult patients are fully immunized.”3
Each summer, the CDC publishes official recommendations for the upcoming influenza season. The World Health Organization annually researches which influenza strains will likely be the most common around the world, including the United States. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) then considers these suggestions and releases recommendations for strain types to be included in influenza vaccines used in the United States.
The influenza vaccine supply for this season is projected to be similar to last year with no predicted shortages. Composition for the upcoming season should include two influenza A viruses (H1N1 and H3N2) and one or two influenza B viruses, depending on whether a trivalent or quadrivalent vaccine is being made. The recommended strains for the 2016-17 influenza vaccine are:
- A/California/7/2009 (H1N1) pdm09-like virus
- A/Hong Kong/4801/2014 (H3N2)-like virus
- B/Brisbane/60/2008-like virus (B/Victoria lineage)
- B/Phuket/3073/2013-like virus (B/Yamagata lineage) if quadrivalent vaccine.4
The amplification of immunization services has been a win for all. Improved vaccination rates, influenza immunization included, are evidence of the positive impact pharmacy has on reducing healthcare costs. Pneumococcal and others should show similar results.
HealthMap Vaccine Finder
Per its website, “HealthMap Vaccine Finder is a free, online service where users can search for locations that offer immunizations. They work with partners, such as clinics, pharmacies, and health departments, to provide accurate and up-to-date information about vaccination services. The goal is to make it simple for users to find a place to be immunized.”5
To list your pharmacy, you must first register for an account. After your account is approved, you will receive further instructions on how to submit information about your vaccination services.
Get Started Now
While you’re investigating what your pharmacy can do to play an active role in immunizing patients, be sure to examine the tools already available in the NRx® Pharmacy Management System. The Patient Chart, accessed from the Patient Record by clicking View, Chart, can be used for medication therapy management (MTM) purposes (Additional Medications, Progress Notes, Lab Values), as well as tracking immunizations.
Inputting patients’ medication lists allows pharmacies to perform clinical checking against prescriptions that were filled at a different pharmacy. Tracking immunizations on the Immunization Record allows you to better advise patients on what immunizations they need, and printing an Immunization History report allows patients to see exactly what immunizations they have already been given.
Be the First to Know
Enhancements to the Patient Chart are planned for Service Pack 19.1.20, as well as the ability to partner with a vendor providing a service to report immunizations to state registries. Please be aware that the onboarding process is different for each state registry.
Visit www.qs1.com and review The Edge, The Edge LTC and Insight for news on upcoming product updates.
Additional Resources for Immunizing Pharmacists
There are a number of sources for information on promoting immunizations in your pharmacy. Communicating with local physicians and their extenders is mutually beneficial as we typically see increased office visits during the recommended influenza immunization time frame. Local media are often interested in a story on immunization as a public service which will, in turn, drive business.
1 Schuchat, Anne, M.D. Department of Health and Human Services. American Pharmacists Association. Sept. 28, 2016. Web. 1 Sept. 2016. http://www.pharmacist.com/sites/default/files/files/CDC_Dear_Pharmacists_Letter_AS_09282015.pdf
2 “Seasonal Influenza (Flu) Vaccination.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Feb. 3, 2016. Web. 25 Aug. 2016. http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vpd-vac/flu/default.htm
3 “A Series on Standards for Adult Immunization Practice.” Department of Health and Human Services. May 2016. Web. 29 Aug. 2016. http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/hcp/adults/downloads/standards-immz-practice.pdf
4 “Frequently Asked Flu Questions 2016-2017 Influenza Season.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Aug. 25, 2016. Web. 25 Aug. 2016. http://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/season/flu-season-2016-2017.htm
5 “About HealthMap Vaccine Finder.” HealthMap. Web. 1 Sept. 2016. http://vaccine.healthmap.org/about/