U.S. National Vaccine Plan: The Role of Pharmacies

by Tera Tuten on March 16, 2011

The United States Department of Health and Human Services recently unveiled a detailed 10-year National Vaccine Plan with specific provider and developmental goals. Traditionally, vaccines have been the concern of doctors and manufacturers. However, not all populations can easily access or afford traditional medical care. It is perhaps even more critical for these underserved populations to have easy and affordable access to life saving vaccinations. One of the key changes in the vaccine plan for the upcoming decade is the new role pharmacies will play in vaccinating their communities.

The entire plan is about 48 pages long; however, there are five main goals.

Goal 1

This goal describes the necessity of increased research and development to provide new vaccines for illnesses that are not currently covered, and to improve vaccines that are already in use.

Goal 2

This goal outlines the need for the vaccine safety system to be improved as well as the need to more effectively communicate to the public that vaccines are currently safe. Pharmacists could be instrumental in providing education materials to patients who enter their establishments.

Goal 3

The third goal details the importance of educating the public, policymakers, and providers about the need for vaccinations. Better communication and education are critical in helping people make more well-informed decisions about vaccines for themselves and their children. Again, pharmacies could help educate a large portion of the population when they enter the pharmacy for other medications.

Goal 4

This goal focuses on the need to have a steady supply of vaccines, which are easily accessible, available to the entire population. Pharmacies could play an important role in providing another location for patients to receive these vaccines.

Goal 5

The final goal of the plan is to reduce the spread of preventable disease as well as those deaths, which the diseases cause around the globe.

Until recently, pharmacies were strictly in the business of providing medications that were prescribed offsite by a patient’s doctor. Over the last few years, more pharmacies have begun offering walk-in clinics with medical staff on-site, and an even greater number have been providing a limited selection of vaccines. This plan seems to indicate this will not be a passing fad. Instead, it looks as though those pioneering pharmacies were an indicator of things to come.

The overall response to these offerings by the public has been positive and has made enough of an impact for the government to have noticed and decided that the United States health plan could benefit from an even greater involvement of pharmacies in the future.

There are obviously still many issues that will need to be worked out such as making it easy to access a patient’s vaccination record if they move to a different city, state, or even a different local pharmacy. Additionally, the types of vaccines and the issue of payment or insurance billing will need to be addressed by individual pharmacies or through government regulations or subsidies.

How do you feel about the increased role pharmacies may soon be playing in vaccinations?

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