New York—Pharmacists might wonder if their immunization efforts are making a real difference in U.S. healthcare.

A new study published in the Journal of the American Pharmacists Association answers that concern, pointing out that pharmacy-based immunization services increased the likelihood of immunization for influenza and pneumococcal diseases, which resulted in millions of additional immunizations.

The article notes that allowing pharmacies to offer vaccines is part of a major policy to increase immunization rates against infectious diseases in the United States. Canadian researchers worked with the Department of Population Health at New York University School of Medicine to determine the effect of pharmacy-based immunization services on the likelihood of adults receiving influenza and pneumococcal vaccinations.

To do that, the study team combined national individual-level immunization data with pharmacy-level data on the availability of immunization services for 8,466 pharmacies from a national pharmacy chain. Then, the researchers used county-level variation in availability of vaccines between 2006 and 2010 to document exposure to immunization services.

While the main analysis involved the U.S. population, also analyzed were subgroup data from high-risk populations, including adults over age 65 years.

Ultimately, the researchers sought to calculate the odds of being immunized for influenza or pneumococcal disease after exposure to pharmacist-delivered vaccines versus before, controlling for existing trends in immunization rate growth and other confounders.

Results indicate that each additional year of exposure to pharmacy-based immunization services was associated with a 1.023 (95% confidence interval [CI]: 1.012-1.034) greater odds of reporting an influenza immunization and a 1.016 (95% CI: 1.006-1.027) greater odds of reporting a pneumococcal immunization.

“Five years after national implementation, we estimate that 6.2 million additional influenza immunizations and 3.5 million additional pneumococcal immunizations are attributable to pharmacy-delivered immunization services, each year,” study authors write.

They also point out that, based on subgroup analyses, the policy increased the odds of immunization for both diseases over time among adults aged more than 65 years (influenza OR=1.025 [95% CI: 1.013-1.038] and pneumococcal OR=1.026 [95% CI: 1.010-1.042]).

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