Individuals often see their pharmacists more frequently than their primary health care provider because they visit for nonprescription medications or for refills of medications they routinely take. Pharmacists are required to keep up with the latest development in the field of medicine and have the opportunity to discuss and educate patients about the importance of immunizations.
In recent years, parents have become more concerned with the health risks associated with vaccines than the health benefits those vaccines provide. While it is true that a child could have an adverse allergic reaction to a vaccine, the risk involved in forgoing the vaccination altogether is much greater. Additionally, each time a child or an adult chooses to skip a vaccination they are putting their entire community at risk. Herd immunity describes a level of collective immunization that helps prevent the spread of diseases to populations who are unable to receive the vaccine. When enough people begin to opt out of vaccinations, this can result in outbreaks in the general population and an increased spread of disease in medical facilities.
A 2008 measles outbreak was attributed, in part, to the fact that many of the people who came into contact with an infected patient were not vaccinated. More than half of those cases were considered to be acquired through health care contacts. This includes provider to patient, patient to provider, patient to patient, and patient to visitor.
Regardless of the setting in which the pharmacist works, it would be beneficial to post reminders about immunizations and the importance of preventing various diseases.
In the past many common childhood illnesses had a high mortality rate. Many people forget how dangerous diseases such as measles, mumps, whooping cough, and polio really were. Provide illustrations and statistics about these diseases along with recommended vaccination schedules.
Patients and healthcare workers need to be aware of their immunization record. Post reminders about where to find vaccination records in your area. Remind people that if an outbreak of a disease does occur, knowing their immunization history could allow them to continue to work.
New vaccines are introduced each year. Some are designed to prevent viruses which could eventually cause cancer and others are designed to treat the current, or expected, flu strain. Whenever new vaccines become available to the public provide information about the vaccine, the disease it is intended to protect against, and other relevant information that has been supplied by the government or manufacturer.
How do you discuss immunization with patients? Do you actively provide literature and information to make them aware of the benefits and/or risks of specific vaccines? Have you noticed an increase in the number of patients asking about the safety and effectiveness of vaccines?