Community Pharmacist Refreshes Messages About the Importance of Vaccines
Pharmacist Jessica Bailey Finke administers a bivalent COVID-19 vaccine booster shot to a patient at a community pharmacy in Stuart, Florida.
Early in the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, a petite older woman struggled to maneuver her 6-foot-tall husband in his wheelchair into Atlantis Pharmacy in Atlantis, Florida, for their vaccinations. When Jessica Bailey Finke, PharmD, saw this endeavor, she assured the couple that they would never again have to go through so much difficulty to get vaccinated.
Finke, who is the Enhanced Community Pharmacy Services Fellow and a faculty member at Palm Beach Atlantic University School of Pharmacy, implemented vaccination programs for homebound patients at Atlantis Pharmacy and Prescription Shop of Stuart in Stuart, Florida. “We turned it into a pharmacy service, and we have made a point of serving these underserved patients who are bedbound or whose partners can’t transport them,” she said.
The pharmacies reach out to homebound patients proactively and receive calls directly from patients requesting the service. Additionally, the pharmacies are listed on the websites of organizations that offer a variety of services for homebound people.
When Finke visits a patient’s home, she goes there prepared to make the biggest impact possible. That means bringing enough vaccines for everyone in the household. Prior to the visit, she looks up the immunization record for the homebound patient and any other household members in the state vaccine registry. During the home visit, she lets everyone know which vaccines are recommended for them, including COVID-19, flu, shingles, and pneumonia vaccines. In this way, she has managed to vaccinate many family members and caregivers, some of whom needed a little convincing and may not have otherwise had any intention of getting a particular vaccination.
At one recent home visit to a patient with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Finke provided COVID-19 vaccine boosters and flu shots to the woman, her husband, her daughter, and her caregiver.
Both in patients’ homes and at the pharmacy, Finke finds the concerns of vaccine contemplators today are different from those she encountered 2 years ago when COVID-19 vaccines first became available. In the past, people were worried that the vaccine was too new. Today, she says, patients wonder whether getting COVID-19 vaccine boosters is even necessary.
Recently, a family of three came into the pharmacy. The mother and son wanted COVID-19 vaccine boosters, but the father didn’t want the vaccine for himself. He wasn’t opposed to vaccines in general—he’d gotten a flu shot—he just didn’t want the COVID-19 vaccine.
“He said, ‘If everyone’s getting sick anyway, what’s the point?’” Finke recalled.
She reminded the man that, like the flu shot, COVID-19 vaccine doesn’t guarantee a person won’t get the virus. The vaccine lowers the risk for serious illness, hospitalization, and death.
Remind patients that COVID-19 vaccines and ongoing boosters protect their ability to gather with friends and family, send their children to school in person, and many other social activities.
At this stage in the fight against COVID-19, Finke says, patients who are on the fence about vaccination or boosters may need a “refresher” on information about immunizations. Patients not only need to be reminded what the vaccine does and does not do, but they also need to be informed that the initial series they received up to 2 years ago is no longer protecting them, and the disease could have serious consequences.
Finally, Finke says, “I remind them of all the things they valued and held near and dear to their hearts 2 years ago—gathering with friends and family, sending their children to school face-to-face—these are still things we are trying to protect with vaccines and boosters today.”
Resources to help Discuss the Importance of COVID-19 Vaccination and Tailor Your Outreach to specific populations are available at APhA’s Vaccine Confident microsite.