Community Pharmacists Win Over Patients Notoriously Reluctant to Be Vaccinated

Community Pharmacists Win Over Patients Notoriously Reluctant to Be Vaccinated

(From left to right) Pharmacist Ed Hudon, pharmacy intern Annalisa Nguyen, and pharmacist Terry Hudon at a COVID-19 vaccine clinic at Boyertown Area Senior High School in Pennsylvania.

At an evening COVID-19 vaccine clinic at The Medicine Shoppe in Boyertown, Bucks County, Pennsylvania, a man asked to speak privately with Ed Hudon, BSPharm. Hudon, who owns and operates the pharmacy with his wife, Terry Hudon, BSPharm, led the patient into a counseling room. There, the man explained that his employer required its workers to get the COVID-19 vaccine but that he didn’t want to get it. He asked if the pharmacist would fill out a vaccine card for him anyway.

Ed Hudon knew that his response at that moment would likely determine the outcome of this interaction. “I could have gotten angry, but I said, ‘My community values my ability to vaccinate them, and I don’t want to jeopardize my licensure and my community by doing this. But what I can do is talk through the different vaccines with you, how they’re made, and how they work, so you feel comfortable getting vaccinated.”

To help educate the reluctant patient, the pharmacist outlined the documented risks and benefits of the vaccine and compared those with the risks of becoming ill with COVID-19. He went over the health, community, and economic benefits of getting the COVID-19 vaccine.

During the patient counseling, Ed Hudon also admitted that he initially had questions about the mRNA vaccines and looked into them before deciding whether to vaccinate his children. “As a parent, I had to do that,” he explained.

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Ed Hudon told the patient that he couldn’t vaccinate someone who was unwilling to be vaccinated. The patient would have to feel comfortable with the decision.

The patient began to come around. Eventually, the discussion shifted to which of the three available COVID-19 vaccines the man would choose, and then he rolled up his sleeve and got the shot.

“I think [the reluctant patient] shifted when he realized I wasn’t going to scold, judge, or shame him. He saw that I was empathetic to his concerns,” Ed Hudon said.

The Hudons have taken this approach at the numerous vaccine clinics that they have coordinated. Additionally, they were responsible for ensuring that pharmacists in their county could administer COVID-19 vaccines. When the Berks County commissioner stated that pharmacists shouldn’t be allocated vaccines because they would be able to vaccinate only 20 to 30 people a day within their pharmacy workflow, the Hudons pushed back.

Ed Hudon proposed a plan to the commissioner to use a local high school gym and the help of community volunteers to vaccinate up to 4,000 people every Sunday until they had vaccinated as many people as possible. The commissioner then agreed to release some of the county’s stockpile to the pharmacists. Since then, the Hudons and their team of clinicians and volunteers have run clinics at long-term care facilities, high school gyms, and in the pharmacy to vaccinate approximately 60,000 people.

The feat was more than just a logistical challenge. “Berks County is notoriously vaccine hesitant,” Ed Hudon said. Throughout the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, the Hudons sat down with patients and community members, took the time to understand their concerns, and dispelled various myths and misinformation about the vaccines.

These conversations might not have been possible, Ed Hudon says, if not for the trust his pharmacy cultivated in the community during the early days of the pandemic. “When doctors’ offices were closed, we were here. We were triaging [patients], taking blood pressures, weights, and texting doctors because [patients] had nowhere else to go and didn’t want to go to the hospital or urgent care.”

Resources to Answer Common Questions about COVID-19 vaccine, Tailor Your Outreach, and Know What Drives Vaccine Confidence are available at APhA’s Vaccine Confident microsite.