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National Pharmacist Day: Combating the COVID-19 Pandemic Through Vaccination

Pharmacists are among the most accessible healthcare providers, and have reliably served their communities for centuries. Their resilience has been evident throughout the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, during which they’ve had to assume responsibilities far beyond that of “dispensing.” Communicating the importance of preventative measures to the public to mitigate rising infection rates, counseling on signs and symptoms of COVID-19, helping patients find alternative means for testing if these are unavailable at their particular location, and anticipating medication needs such as inhalers, corticosteroids, anxiolytics/antidepressants, and experimental medications—these are just a few of the many activities undertaken by these accomplished medical professionals.

With the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) clearing the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine on December 11 and the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine on December 18 for emergency use, thousands of U.S. healthcare workers (starting December 14) and long-term care facilities (LTCF)/nursing home residents (starting December 17) are receiving vaccinations as part of phase 1a. According to the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), phase 1b will include vaccination of frontline essential workers and adults aged 75 years and older. Special freezers have been shipped to house vaccine doses, and protocols have been put in place to safely distribute vaccines to communities upon obtaining clearance. While administering vaccines is nothing new for pharmacists—they have been doing so for nearly a decade and one chain pharmacy has administered more than 60 million vaccines—vaccinating individuals against influenza, pneumococcal pneumonia and shingles has kept pharmacists especially busy over the past few months. Vaccination against preventable infectious viruses may help some patients experience less hardship and fewer side effects if they contract COVID-19.

Pharmacists will not only use their time to administer COVID-19 vaccinations through authorization obtained under the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), but will also spend many hours helping ease the minds of their patients through consultation on the importance of the COVID-19 vaccine, the process for receiving the second dose of the vaccination three to four weeks after the first vaccine and what patients can expect in terms of immediate side effects. Fact sheets have been created for healthcare providers, vaccine recipients and caregivers. Healthcare companies have been offering pharmacists continuing education (CE) training hours to properly prepare them to administer the new COVID-19 vaccinations by addressing safety parameters, storage and co-administration with other vaccines or medications.

Our nation’s pharmacists are diligently working at maximum capacity while frequently being asked to do more to ensure the health and safety of their patients. Integrated healthcare practitioner services are becoming the standard of care in many pharmacy organizations, especially community pharmacies.  Increased services that you may have already seen or taken advantage of include Medication Therapy Management (MTM); advisement of over-the-counter (OTC) medication selection; medication adherence, packaging and synchronization; compounding; cholesterol and diabetes screening through small blood samples; blood pressure checks through manual or machine intervention. New for 2021 is the addition of rapid COVID-19 antibody testing, with quick results often within 15 minutes.

Please help Allscripts celebrate National Pharmacist Day on Jan. 12, 2021, by simply thanking your pharmacist for all the work they have done to help keep your community members healthy. As the pandemic continues, pharmacists across the nation will continue looking for ways to optimize their responsibilities to meet the needs of their patients and staff through process improvement initiatives. Most recently, some states have provided training to enable “qualified pharmacy technicians” to administer vaccinations, which helps relieve some of the pharmacists’ burden. Although it is not National Pharmacy Technician Day, which falls on the third Tuesday in October, it is critically important to also thank these professionals as they play a crucial role in the success of the pharmacy department.

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