Vaccines save 2.5 million lives each year globally. Not only do they decrease the global burden of preventative diseases, they also altruistically spread herd immunity to the community and drive down the costs of healthcare. Since the 20th century, pharmacists have contributed to this public health initiative through their roles as educators, distributers, dispensers, and advocators. And while a pharmacist’s immunisation roles vary depending on the country, the International Pharmaceutical Federation’s (FIP) latest global report estimates that pharmacist-administered vaccination services have the potential to immunise 655 million people worldwide (The Pharmaceutical Journal online, 9 September 2016 ‘Community pharmacies could provide vaccines across the globe, says FIP’).
The United States recognises the value of pharmacists as vaccination promoters and, as a result, all accredited schools of pharmacy are required to integrate immunisation training in their curriculum. The American Pharmacist Association (APhA) Pharmacy-Based Immunisation Delivery Certificate Training programme is often used in the curriculum, which includes a 12-hour self-study online course, an eight-hour live seminar, and hands-on injection technique demonstration. A certification of achievement is received after participants pass the APhA examination and show proof of a basic cardiac life support (BCLS) or cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) certification. Students then have the opportunity to practise their immunisation skills during health screening events, introductory practice experiences, or advanced practice rotations depending on the state regulations. As students are exposed early in their careers about the importance of immunisations, they are able to integrate these skills into their professional practice setting.
An example of this technique is at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore School of Pharmacy (UMES SOP) where all first-year pharmacy students attend a one-day APhA training session so that they can become immunisation providers. Students then progress to their second year, where they are allowed to participate in educational health screening events to spread vaccine-related information to the public and create immunisation clinics on campus, where they immunise the college body. On their third year, students on rotations vaccinate the community under the supervision of a pharmacist preceptor (preregistration tutor), increasing the rates of immunisations locally and nationally.
Training student pharmacists on vaccine delivery not only increases their skillset upon graduation to make them more competitive in the job market, it subsequently allows increased vaccine access to the general public. With this strategy, the United States has produced more than 280,000 pharmacists in all 50 states who are able to administer vaccinations. By including student pharmacists as an integral contributor to vaccination advancements, we create a future generation of pharmacists who are able to transform pharmacy services and decrease disease burden worldwide.
Assistant professor of pharmacy practice
University of Maryland Eastern Shore School of Pharmacy, United States