Pharmacist Shares Lessons Learned for APhA’s Social Media Event on COVID-19 Vaccinations

Pharmacist Analisa Iole administers a COVID-19 vaccine to a patient at a Jewel-Osco Pharmacy in Chicago, Illinois.

Pharmacist Analisa Iole administers a COVID-19 vaccine to a patient at a Jewel-Osco Pharmacy in Chicago, Illinois.

When Analisa Iole, PharmD, was a student pharmacist and interning at a supermarket chain in Iowa City, Iowa, an acquaintance from college visited the pharmacy for a COVID-19 vaccine. After getting the shot, he asked Iole if she’d be willing to talk with his wife and son about the vaccine. Both he and his wife had been vaccinated, but his wife was hesitant to let their son get the vaccine.

“He said, ‘I knew you worked here, and I trust you, so I’d love to talk if you can,’” Iole recalled.

Iole suggested that the family come to the pharmacy the next day and she would answer all their questions to the best of her ability. When they arrived, she explained how the vaccine worked; what it could and could not be expected to do; how it had been developed; and why it could be approved relatively quickly. Finally, the wife asked, “Are COVID shots going to become a yearly thing like flu shots?”

This was one of the first times a patient asked Iole this question, but she has heard it countless times since then. She always answers honestly: “I don’t know.”

“You have to be up-front with patients and say that we don’t know what the future of COVID vaccines will be,” Iole said. “But there are experts who are researching this, and we can trust their recommendations.”

The same question came up at APhA’s May 2023 Vaccine Confident social media event—known as the Twitter Takeover on Vaccine Voices in the Real World—during which the Association invited pharmacists to weigh in on common questions about building vaccine confidence in their communities and among their colleagues. APhA posed questions such as: “How will you alert your patients that new and improved COVID-19 vaccines are available? Signs, messages, word of mouth, other?” Then pharmacists were invited to comment.

The interactive event aimed to prepare pharmacists to build vaccine confidence in their patients and broader communities.

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“We [participated] in the hope that, by having this discussion on a public platform, anyone following along would join in the conversation or use the talking points to spark conversations in their day-to-day work and life,” Iole said.

Iole has participated in two of these social media discussion sessions for pharmacists. Through this dynamic platform, she has shared her insights from more than 2 years of successful interactions with patients to help lead to successful interactions between other pharmacists and their patients at other practice sites.

Most of the issues Iole raised during Vaccine Voices in the Real World were situations she had personally faced in her practice. Frequently, patients ask her why they need to continue getting COVID-19 boosters. She answers them just as she answered during APhA’s Vaccine Confident events. “I tell them that COVID is still relevant and that vaccines are still the best protection we have.”

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