Pharmacist Trains Colleagues to Build Vaccine Confidence

Adam James, PharmD, trains Rite Aid pharmacy colleagues to foster vaccine confidence through building patient relationships.

Adam James, PharmD, trains Rite Aid pharmacy colleagues to foster vaccine confidence through building patient relationships.

Since pharmacists started administering COVID-19 vaccines, Adam James, PharmD, Manager of Clinical and Immunization Programs for Rite Aid Corporation, has been responsible for making sure the company’s pharmacists have the most thorough, accurate, and up-to-date information to share with their patients to build vaccine confidence.

“People who are unsure about [COVID-19] vaccine or still holding out may be looking for more information, or the right information, that satisfies their needs. Or maybe they are waiting to see how other people do with the vaccine,” James said. “It may require multiple interactions, so pharmacists should continue to build relationships and engage often. The more pharmacist team members learn about each patient, the better they will understand the patient’s barriers so they can help the patient overcome them.”

The pandemic, he said, has better positioned pharmacists to build these relationships and earn patients’ trust. “Pharmacists are the vaccine experts, and now, the public is starting to recognize us as such,” James said.

James has supported pharmacists in their efforts to build relationships with patients by providing them with frequent updates on COVID-19 vaccine information as well as educational videos and scripts.

He’s received a great deal of positive feedback from pharmacists on the video he created on best practices for vaccinating children. The video included tips on how parents should hold children during the shot and ways pharmacists can divert children’s attention to facilitate vaccine administration.

Pharmacists who are administering flu shots are educated to check the patient’s eligibility for a COVID-19 vaccine at the same time, but not to stop there. Pharmacists can then ask whether anyone else in the patient’s family might benefit from a COVID-19 vaccine or if there are other vaccines that would be beneficial to the patient or family members.

“It’s surprising how many people say, for example, ‘Should my mom get this too?’ or ‘Is there a COVID vaccine available for my child?’ Sometimes this information just hasn’t reached them, so it’s really important for pharmacists to ask directly about the whole family’s needs.”

James says that continually engaging patients and building relationships with them will only reap rewards. “Creating vaccine confidence also involves building relationships outside the vaccine conversation,” he said.

Several years before the pandemic, when James was a pharmacy manager, he learned the importance of building relationships with patients. A patient who came to the pharmacy regularly refused a flu shot every time James offered it, but he asked James for advice about managing his gout and the related foot pain in particular. James suggested a number of habits and lifestyle changes, and the patient adopted them all. When telling James how well he was doing a few weeks later, the patient asked whether there was anything else the pharmacist recommended to which James replied, “Yes, I recommend a flu shot.” Recognizing that all the other advice from the pharmacist produced good results, the patient acquiesced and got the vaccine.

Practice Pearl

Creating vaccine confidence includes building relationships outside the vaccine conversation.

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It takes these repeated conversations with patients, James said, to truly understand their unique concerns with vaccination and tailor an individualized message that will get the patient past those concerns.

“The most effective message right now for the last holdouts is just accurate information. But the information that’s important to one person might not be important to another, and a pharmacist who’s really good at motivational interviewing can figure out what information that person is lacking and be prepared to provide it,” James explained. Ultimately, it is the decision of the individual patient, and pharmacy team members are the messengers of accurate and reliable information.

Resources to Educate Your Health Care Team about COVID-19 vaccines and tools to help Discuss the Importance of COVID-19 Vaccination are available at APhA’s Vaccine Confident microsite.