Pharmacists hold a unique position in the healthcare system: they are highly accessible to the public and are the most visited health care professionals. They have long opening hours, a wide availability of medicines, and are spread across wide geographies – many areas tend to have pharmacies a lot closer than they do clinics.
Yet, pharmacists are still limited in the services that they can provide, including the ability to administer vaccines.
Pharmacists should assume a larger role with regard to immunization, particularly in densely populated regions in Southeast Asia where both child and adult immunizations are being neglected, adding to the already large disease burden.
Vaccines are critical to reducing the high burden of disease
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that vaccines save between 2 to 3 million lives every year. Currently, Southeast Asia suffers from a disproportionately large share of common infectious diseases of childhood that can be prevented with the use of vaccines. Adults who were not given proper immunization as children are also at risk for vaccine preventable diseases, and could greatly benefit from catch-up immunization. The elderly too will greatly benefit from having access to flu and pneumonia vaccinations, both of which are life-threatening diseases in old age.
A International Pharmaceutical Federation (FIP) survey of 45 countries found that 13 of the 45 countries (including the U.S., the U.K., Australia, and South Africa) give pharmacists the authority to administer vaccines. The Philippines is one of those 13 countries is leading Southeast Asia in pharmacy-based immunization. There is no reason that other countries in the region should not follow the Philippines’ example.
Pharmacists increase immunization rates
In one US-based study it was found that when it comes to receiving a flu vaccine, the most important factors for patients are receiving the vaccination quickly and without an appointment. Pharmacists are capable of meeting both of these needs and more by serving as screeners, recommenders, prescribers, and administrators of the vaccine. Not only does this increase access to vaccines, but it also increases the likelihood that patients are indeed receiving the right kind of vaccines.
Furthermore, with rising rates of international travel to and from Southeast Asia, pharmacists should be allowed to prescribe immunizations for travel. By making pharmacists responsible for pre-travel consultations and preventative travel measures, we can potentially reduce the burden of contagious disease worldwide. With the help of mClinica’s SwipeRx, pharmacists can receive the proper CPD training for delivering immunizations. Pharmacists can also make use of mClinica’s Connect platform to build their digital patient programs and keep track of patient immunization records and status.
In sum, we cannot neglect the risk of infectious disease in highly populated areas like Southeast Asia where the burden of disease is already high. The threat of many of these diseases can be prevented altogether by administering vaccines, so providing direct access to immunization is a fundamental responsibility for national public health systems.
Allowing pharmacists to administer vaccines will increase access and delivery of vaccines to all individuals, which will drastically improve public safety against vaccine preventable diseases.