Pediatric Vaccinations Act as Springboard for Family Vaccinations at Community Pharmacy

Pharmacist Kristi Riley lets a pediatric patient choose his kiddie-themed bandage before he receives a COVID-19 vaccine at Lebanon Shops Pharmacy in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Pharmacist Kristi Riley lets a pediatric patient choose his kiddie-themed bandage before he receives a COVID-19 vaccine at Lebanon Shops Pharmacy in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

COVID-19 vaccinations for pediatric patients at Lebanon Shops Pharmacy in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, have a much wider reach than just children. These vaccinations help pharmacists reach entire families.

Kristi Riley, PharmD, uses a well-thought-out routine engaging children and their parents to ease each step of getting vaccinated. First, she ensures the parents are comfortable with the vaccination process so that they are in a position to keep their children calm. “Something we’ve always recognized is that when the parents are comfortable, the kids are comfortable,” Riley said.

Next, Riley has the children choose the arm in which they’ll receive the vaccine, the juvenile-themed character on the adhesive bandage they’ll wear, and the lollipop they’ll have afterward. “When they have some sort of choice, they seem far more receptive to getting their shot…and they may even be excited to come back,” Riley explained.

Finally, the children get 15 to 30 minutes to play with a slew of toys during the observation time after they’re vaccinated.

It’s this successful routine that has earned Lebanon Shops Pharmacy the reputation as a go-to destination for pediatric COVID-19 vaccination.

Recently, a couple of parents drove more than an hour from Erie, Pennsylvania, to have their two children vaccinated at Lebanon Shops Pharmacy. Few pharmacies in their area were offering pediatric vaccinations.

When Riley talked to the parents, she learned that they had received only the primary series of the monovalent COVID-19 vaccine. They didn’t understand the need for, or the importance of, the bivalent booster, and they were reluctant to get it.

“They didn’t know what kind of effects the Omicron variant could have on people who’d gotten the primary series but not the bivalent booster,” Riley said. “I told them about some very severe cases.”

Practice Pearl

Vaccinating children allows pharmacists to leverage the opportunity to educate and counsel parents about their own need for immunization.

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Riley says that vaccinating children has afforded her the opportunity to educate and counsel numerous parents who were either not vaccinated at all or who, like the parents from Erie, were not up to date on boosters. “After a lot of [discussion], the [parents] usually roll up their sleeves and get the vaccine on the same day as their children,” she said.

According to Riley, there are three critical steps to winning over parents who’ve held out against the vaccine until now.

First, Riley gives them all the facts about the vaccine and answers all of their questions. A particularly enticing fact, which surprises many parents, is that millions of doses of the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines have been administered and are now licensed by the FDA following the earlier emergency use authorization. Therefore, the argument that the vaccine is “too new” or “experimental” no longer holds up as it might have for many vaccine holdouts.

Next, in keeping with the focus on families as Lebanon Shops Pharmacy is a family-owned business, Riley points out that everyone in her family has been vaccinated. She said, “I tell them, ‘I'm vaccinated. My mom is vaccinated. We vaccinated our younger cousin the other day.’”

Finally, Riley leaves the decision up to the patients.

“We don’t push. You can’t force anyone. We’re playing the long game. Every time someone comes in, we say, ‘I notice you haven’t gotten the [COVID-19] vaccine. Would you like to receive it today? Is there any more information I can give you?’ And you give them the choice. The power of choice always wins.”

Resources to Tailor Your Outreach to specific populations and Answer Common Questions about COVID-19 vaccines are available at APhA’s Vaccine Confident microsite.