Atlanta, GA—The CDC is pushing for patients to receive routine vaccinations in their medical home, essentially their primary care provider’s office, because COVID-19 shelter-in-place and stay-at-home orders have led to decreased use of routine preventive medical services overall.

Public health officials also point out, however, that vaccination availability at other locations—such as pharmacies—increase access to vaccines in some populations or situations, particularly when the patient does not have a primary care provider or when care in the medical home is not available or feasible. 

In recently released guidance, the CDC provides new information on vaccinations during the COVID-19 pandemic and emphasizes the importance of information on administered vaccines.

In “Vaccination Guidance During a Pandemic,” the agency says that “information on administered vaccines should be documented (e.g., through the state-based immunization information system [IIS], patient’s electronic medical record, client-held paper immunization records) so that providers have accurate and timely information on their patients’ vaccination status and to ensure continuity of care in the setting of COVID-19-related disruptions to routine medical services.”

The CDC also stresses the importance of routine vaccination being maintained or reinitiated during the COVID-19 pandemic, calling that “essential for protecting individuals and communities from vaccine-preventable diseases and outbreaks. Routine vaccination prevents illnesses that lead to unnecessary medical visits, hospitalizations and further strain the healthcare system.”

Especially critical is influenza vaccination in the upcoming season. 

Public health officials said immunization “will be paramount to reduce the impact of respiratory illnesses in the population and resulting burdens on the healthcare system during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

So how should pharmacists do that? First, the guidance urges, “Communicating the importance of vaccination to patients and parents/caregivers as well as the safety protocols and procedures outlined in this guidance can help provide reassurance to those who may otherwise be hesitant to present for vaccination visits.”

While influenza vaccination recommendations haven’t changed—and essentially encompass nearly everyone in the United States older than age 6 months—public health officials suggest that special effort be made to vaccinate:

• Essential workers: Healthcare personnel, including nursing-home, long-term care facility, and pharmacy staff, and other critical infrastructure workforce
• Those at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19: Including adults aged 65 years and older, residents in a nursing home or long-term care facility, and persons of all ages with certain underlying medical conditions. The guidance reminds pharmacists and other healthcare professionals that severe illness from COVID-19 has been observed to disproportionately affect members of certain racial/ethnic minority groups, including non-Hispanic black persons, Hispanics and Latinos, and American Indians/Alaska Natives
• Persons at high risk for influenza complications: Including infants and young children, children with neurologic conditions, pregnant women, adults aged 65 years and older, and other persons with certain underlying medical conditions

On the other hand, the CDC advises that routine vaccination should be deferred for persons with suspected or confirmed COVID-19, regardless of symptoms, until criteria have been met for them to discontinue isolation. 

“While mild illness is not a contraindication to vaccination, vaccination visits for these individuals should be postponed to avoid exposing healthcare personnel and other patients to the virus that causes COVID-19,” the guidance explains. “When scheduling or confirming appointments for vaccination, patients should be instructed to notify the provider’s office in advance if they currently have or develop any symptoms of COVID-19.”
The content contained in this article is for informational purposes only. The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice. Reliance on any information provided in this article is solely at your own risk.

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