It Takes a Community: How CPESN® Is Supporting COVID-19 Vaccination

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Community Pharmacy COVID-19 Vaccination

In late 2020, the Community Pharmacy Enhanced Services Network (CPESN USA) surpassed 3,000 pharmacies in number. It also became a Federal Pharmacy Partner for the CDC COVID-19 Vaccination Program. It all makes a strong statement about the value of community pharmacies coming together.

CPESN is a clinically integrated, nationwide organization of pharmacy networks (found in 45 states and Washington, D.C.) that empowers independent pharmacies deeply rooted within their communities by fostering their ability to provide high-quality, patient-centered enhanced services. CPESN pharmacies integrate with other healthcare providers to coordinate medical treatment, leading to better medication adherence, higher patient satisfaction, and lower healthcare costs. RedSail Technologies’ Ed Vess, R.Ph., director of pharmacy professional affairs, has worked to advance the network as a CPESN luminary. Notably, CPESN has been a leader in early response to COVID testing, pharmacy best practices, and most recently COVID vaccine guidance.

Vaccine Education and Support

CPESN’s COVID-19 Vaccine home page is a powerhouse of resources. The page freely shares the “Change Packages” created for participants of CPESN’s special Flip the Pharmacy program. (A Change Package is a detailed set of step-by-step instructions and best practices to help these pharmacies transform their operations.) Although the vaccine-related Change Packages are developed based on the CDC vaccine agreement that CPESN pharmacies have signed, their content may be used by any pharmacy to assist it in meeting similar requirements. For example, the COVID-19 Vaccine Change Package for December 2020 is designed to help pharmacies build the infrastructure required prior to ordering COVID-19 vaccines. It’s intended to be helpful as pharmacies try to balance routine responsibilities with the addition of administering COVID vaccines.

You can access these resources to learn about best practices in these areas (and more):

  • Using Digital Data Loggers (DDL) (required for each storage device for COVID-19 vaccines)
  • Reaching out to your local Health Department to be a vaccination resource
  • Billing the medical benefit (not the PBM) for COVID-19 vaccines
  • Obtaining access to your state’s Immunization Information System (IIS)
  • Using appointment-based model scheduling platforms (including reviews)
  • Identifying certified immunizers and certified immunizer training resources

Vaccine Success Stories

In a powerful example of what all this infrastructure-laying, education, and advocacy amongst community pharmacies can accomplish, West Virginia and its CPESN pharmacies have made headlines for success with their COVID-19 vaccine rollout. Rather than adopting the federal plan that worked with only large-chain pharmacies, the state tapped its local network. The positive results further bolster the recognition that community-based organizations can often do it better.  

Vaccination Action

Advice for CPESN member pharmacies is applicable to any pharmacist with a desire to take part in the pandemic response:

  • Ready yourself as much as you are able. This means education and networking. Join webinars, listservs, and community meetings.
  • Be accommodating, collaborative, and agile. Adopt and use whatever is needed: new technology, paperwork, practice settings, contracts, and partners. While CPESN pharmacies may or may not receive the vaccine in the very near term, it is coming. In the meantime, access vaccines elsewhere if you can.
  • Support and partner with your colleagues. Coordinate and collaborate with your fellow pharmacists – chain, long-term care, primary care, or a local competitor. After all, they are stepping up to respond to the pandemic, too.

It’s Time to Try It

As one South Carolina pharmacy, profiled in the upcoming winter edition of Insight magazine, declared about starting their immunization program: “I would say go for it. Now! … We waited too long because at the time it was the unknown, [but] it’s been great for us.” This pharmacy chose to use resources from the RedSail Advantage™ program to help get up and running with vaccinations – just another example of the power of partnerships.

For its part, CPESN makes sure to credit the partnership and tireless work of NCPA® for its inclusion and success with COVID vaccinations. Which illustrates the point yet again – community pharmacy is not only about supporting communities; it’s about supporting each other.

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