Community Pharmacists can contribute through diverse ways to vaccination strategies, protecting public health and contributing to a robust and sustainable healthcare system. Pharmacists are ideally placed at the heart of communities to provide information, advice, referral, treatment, and preventative actions to reduce the burden of communicable and vaccine-preventable diseases. As part of their wider public health mission, community pharmacists and pharmacy organisations are also involved in public awareness campaigns on topics such as antimicrobial resistance and vaccine hesitancy.
In addition to their core activities, community pharmacists across Europe are increasingly providing new and innovative services to complement wider efforts within health services to reduce the transmission of communicable diseases, improve effectiveness of treatment and increase vaccination coverage of the population.
At national and local level, community pharmacists engage in a number of activities and provide a range of services to increase vaccination coverage including screening and signposting in the pharmacy, advocacy on availability and benefits of vaccination and ensuring pharmacists themselves are vaccinated.
Many countries worldwide are moving towards expanding the scope of practice of pharmacists, namely through implementing pharmacist-led vaccination programmes.
Currently, pharmacists can vaccinate in their pharmacies in 15 European countries (Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Luxembourg, Poland, Portugal, Norway, Romania, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom), for influenza and/or COVID-19.
In 9 of these countries (Denmark, France, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Norway, Portugal, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom) pharmacists are able to administer other vaccines and medicines such as Pneumococcal, Travel vaccines, Herpes Zoster (shingles), Cholera, Diphtheria, Tetanus and Pertussis, Anti-Tetanus Serum injection, Meningococcal, Tick-borne Encephalitis, Typhoid Fever and Hepatitis A, Japanese-Encephalitis, Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, Human Papillomavirus (HPV), Rabies, Human rotavirus, and Varicella.
Apart from these, in at least 3 other countries (Croatia, Estonia, the Netherlands) other healthcare professionals (e.g., physicians or nurses) can provide the vaccination service in a pharmacy.
Enabling pharmacists to administer vaccines increases accessibility, increases convenience for patients and most of all it improves overall vaccination rates. For example, evidence has shown that pharmacy-based vaccination services have led to increase flu vaccination rates among people who had missed their vaccination in the previous year and in those who would not have otherwise received a vaccine. Evidence also shows that one third of the vaccines were administered outside working days, highlighting the accessibility of the community pharmacies network and the contribution in decreasing work absenteeism.
In this position paper PGEU suggests a number of policy recommendations to maximise the contribution that community pharmacists make to tackling vaccines-preventable diseases and improving vaccination coverage.
PGEU suggests a number of policy recommendations to maximise the contribution that community pharmacists make to tackling vaccines-preventable diseases and improving vaccination coverage:
Advocacy and Communication
- European institutions and agencies should continue and strengthen collaboration and communication with community pharmacists and pharmacy organisations at European level, namely through joint initiatives and supporting actions such as the Coalition for Vaccination.
- National governments and stakeholders should support campaigns involving community pharmacists on the fight against disinformation and misinformation about vaccines, combating vaccine hesitancy and promoting vaccination uptake.
- National governments should recognize the valuable role played by community pharmacists in public health emergencies and support these interventions through appropriate service remuneration.
- Pharmacists should be better integrated into primary healthcare systems and services, for example, integration of electronic health records to facilitate efficient notification of pharmacists’ interventions to the patient’s medical record.
- As proposed by the European Parliament, the European Commission should include the pharmacy sector in EU public health initiatives and Member States should include the pharmacy sector in their health, care, and research programmes.
- Due to the borderless nature of vaccine-preventable diseases, European institutions should promote sharing national best practices that include the participation of different healthcare professionals in effective vaccination strategies.
- National governments should include and integrate community pharmacists into national vaccination strategies, including communication campaigns.
- Pharmacists, as frontline workers, should get themselves vaccinated against influenza, COVID-19, and other vaccine-preventable diseases. Pharmacists shall be included as priority healthcare staff for vaccination schemes.
- Pharmacists should be enabled to provide new and innovative services in response to the threat posed by vaccine-preventable diseases.
- Services such as vaccinations should be globally commissioned within national health systems, supported by national health budgets, assuring economic sustainability of these services.
- Aiming at reinforcing prevention strategies, government-funded/supported pharmacy-based vaccination programs should be included as part of the overall health promotion national plans.
- National governments should expand pharmacy practice with the implementation of pharmacist-led/pharmacy-based vaccination programs.
- Professional bodies and pharmacists’ associations should develop, implement, and assess continuous professional development courses, Standard Operation Procedures, and toolkits for pharmacy-based vaccination programs.
PGEU members examples of the contribution of community pharmacists to vaccination strategies
Furthermore, you can read more about the PGEU members examples of the contribution of community pharmacists to vaccination strategies here