The immunization campaign against COVID-19 may be the largest public health effort any of us will see in our lifetime. If you want to participate, you need to prepare now. The National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA) and the American Pharmacists Association (APhA) have prepared a number of valuable resources for pharmacists related to offering the new vaccines, once they receive FDA authorization. Here’s a quick summary of five steps you need to take to be ready to offer this vital service to your community.
1. Top up training. Under the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness Act, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services approved administration of COVID-19 vaccines by state-licensed pharmacists as well as state-authorized pharmacy interns and qualified pharmacy technicians under supervision of a qualified pharmacist. Vaccinators must meet specific education requirements. These include completion of an ACPE-approved practical training program that includes hands-on injection technique; clinical evaluation of indications and contraindications of vaccines; and recognition and treatment of emergency reactions to vaccines with at least 20 hours of this training for the pharmacist. In addition, all vaccinators must have a current certificate in basic cardiopulmonary resuscitation and pharmacists and technicians must complete at least 2 hours of ACPE-approved, immunization-related continuing pharmacy education during each state licensing period.
2. Connect to your network. There are a lot of moving parts here, so stay in touch with your state pharmacy association and local public health officials to ensure you receive all relevant updates. Your wholesaler and pharmacy system providers will also have information about changes you may need to make to serve as a COVID-19 vaccination site.
3. Ice it. Make sure you have sufficient cold storage capacity. The vaccines will have varying storage requirements, but all of them will need to be kept cold or frozen if held for any length of time. Identify a backup location for storage if your unit fails.
4. Register, enroll, and update. To participate in the COVID-19 vaccine effort, you must register at www.vaccinefinder.org. It’s mandatory, so do it first. Then get online and verify that the National Council for Prescription Drug Programs pharmacy profile shows you offer immunizations. If you haven’t offered other vaccines, enroll as a pharmacy provider with Medicare to ensure payment for the immunization service. (The vaccines will be free to pharmacies and patients.)
5. Check your tracking and reporting systems. You’ll need to report immunization data within 24 hours to your state registry or tap into an alternative reporting mechanism through the CDC. Make sure your systems are up to the task. At the same time, check that your systems can schedule appointments, identify which customers fall into priority groups for immunization, and track who has received which vaccine so that they come back for the proper second dose. While these capabilities have not yet been mandated, the NCPA expects they will be required.
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.