While your pharmacy is adjusting to the COVID-19 pandemic, have you considered how you will accommodate administering vaccines during this time? Maybe you’ve decided to forego them for the time being, or it hasn’t even been a priority.
Continuing to offer vaccines is one way to contribute to the long-term health of your community as we face the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States. Right now it may seem difficult to look too far ahead, but recent guidance from the World Health Organization’s (WHO) may help you consider how you can support vaccinations in your community. According to WHO,
“Previous outbreaks have demonstrated that when health systems are overwhelmed, mortality from vaccine-preventable and other treatable conditions can also increase dramatically. During the 2014-2015 Ebola outbreak, the increased number of deaths caused by measles, malaria, HIV/AIDS, and tuberculosis attributable to health system failures exceeded deaths from Ebola.”
WHO’s guidance cites immunization as a core health service that should be prioritized “for the prevention of communicable diseases and safeguarded for continuity during the COVID-19 pandemic, where feasible. Immunization delivery strategies may need to be adapted and should be conducted under safe conditions, without undue harm to health workers, caregivers and the community.”
Here are more considerations to determine how to accommodate administering vaccines during the pandemic:
- Identify the need in your community. In March of 2020, WHO recommended the suspension of mass vaccination campaigns, however the organization more recently provided guidance for health professionals to begin reinstating services, where appropriate. As well, the organization also recommends that influenza vaccinations continue for health workers, older adults, and pregnant women, where feasible. Flu cases seem to be decreasing, but the CDC cautions to take into account that the data may be affected by the current COVID-19 pandemic. The situation makes it difficult to determine whether the number of flu cases is actually lower, or that people are less likely to seek care for their symptoms. We recommend reviewing the CDC’s map of flu activity in your area to determine what the need for flu vaccines is within your community.
PrescribeWellness offers solutions to identify opportunities for vaccinations across your patient population, which allows you to filter by a range of factors such as age or insurance plan. Recent product enhancements have made it easier to operate a vaccination clinic, by providing you with improved visibility and a more efficient workflow. Need additional support implementing vaccinations into your pharmacy workflow? PrescribeWellness can help jump-start and maintain services like vaccinations.
Pharmacies may want to consider offering preventive care vaccinations, such as the Measles, Mumps, and Rubella (MMR) vaccine, to service patients who do not feel comfortable heading to the doctor’s office during periods of social distancing and stay-at-home orders.
Of course, you will need to take into account local guidance for COVID-19 and its impact on your area and local health systems. As many pharmacies begin to offer drive-thru services, consider administering curbside vaccinations to promote physical distancing measures while providing ongoing care for patients.2
- Address patient concerns. There is a lot of misinformation and fear surrounding vaccinations. Pharmacists have the opportunity to serve as voices of reason amidst the swirl of online debates and questions. You can empower your patients to make choices based on facts. You could also host a virtual information session to address common patient questions. This type of community engagement can help strengthen the connection between your pharmacy and those you serve.
PrescribeWellness’ patient communication solution, you can send voice or text campaigns to notify patients of your services and other pharmacy updates. This can be a major time-saver for your pharmacy staff, especially when facing challenges due to the coronavirus pandemic.
- Create a plan for re-implementation. If you choose to forgo vaccination services, for now, you may want to establish guidelines for when your pharmacy will be ready. WHO recommends to “reinstate and reinvigorate immunization services at the earliest opportunity to close immunity gaps, once reduced local transmission of the COVID-19 virus permits primary health care services to resume.”2
We appreciate all of the work you and your staff are doing to care for patients during this critical time. To learn how PrescribeWellness can help you provide vaccinations to support long-term health in your community, as well as additional services, such as COVID-19 testing, connect with us today.
 World Health Organization, Press Release, “WHO releases guidelines to help countries maintain essential health services during the COVID-19 pandemic: https://www.who.int/news-room/detail/30-03-2020-who-releases-guidelines-to-help-countries-maintain-essential-health-services-during-the-covid-19-pandemic, March 30, 2020.
 World Health Organization, “Guiding principles for immunization activities during the COVID-19 pandemic,” https://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/handle/10665/331590/WHO-2019-nCoV-immunization_services-2020.1-eng.pdf, March 26, 2020.