Pharmacy Preceptors Teach Student Pharmacists to Address Vaccine Fears and Misinformation

Pharmacist Henry Ranger vaccinates a pediatric patient at The Prescription Shoppe in Williamsburg, Virginia.

Pharmacist Cherokee Layson-Wolf shows off her daughter’s CDC COVID-19 vaccine card after administering the vaccine.

For Cherokee Layson-Wolf, PharmD, and Deanna Tran, PharmD, instilling vaccine confidence starts not with patients but with the next generation of immunizers. When the COVID-19 vaccine became available, these educators from the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy (UMSOP) knew there would be great demand for immunizers. The two joined forces to train 150 pharmacists in the span of 2 months.

“It was about a year’s worth of training in a few months. We offered a program every 2 to 3 weeks for pharmacists in addition to our own students that we were training,” said Tran, Associate Professor of Practice, Sciences, and Health Outcomes Research (PSHOR) and Co-director of the Pharmacy Practice Laboratories at UMSOP.

At a time when the number of pharmacists seeking training was increasing, it was becoming increasingly unsafe to gather in groups. To keep the pipeline of immunizers moving, Layson-Wolf and Tran found innovative ways to carry out the training safely.

After APhA allowed immunizers-in-training to work with any pharmacist of their choosing for the hands-on portion of its Pharmacy-Based Immunization Delivery Certificate Training Program, Tran, a faculty member for the program, volunteered and invited trainees to meet outdoors at her home’s driveway. She brought the supplies outside and sat at a table in her garage with the door open.

“We did what we had to do,” said Tran. “A lot of pharmacists wanted to get trained as immunizers, and it was too hard for many of them to work with other pharmacists elsewhere, so I offered up my garage.”

For trainees working with other pharmacists, Layson-Wolf and several other UMSOP faculty offered their home addresses as pick-up points for supplies as COVID-19–related restrictions prevented trainees from going on campus.

“Both at the trainings and at the vaccine clinics, where student pharmacists were immunizing, our work was about instilling vaccine confidence in these new providers and soon-to-be-graduating providers—confidence in engaging with the patient, in administering the vaccine correctly, [and] in answering patients’ questions,” said Layson-Wolf, Associate Dean for Student Affairs and Professor of PSHOR.

Over the course of the vaccine rollout, Layson-Wolf and Tran have had a hand in administering some 38,000 vaccines through UMSOP vaccination initiatives. Their major role has been to oversee and educate students. As pharmacy professors, addressing vaccine hesitancy must include teaching students how to handle it with patients.

Layson-Wolf often listened in on student pharmacists’ conversations with patients and debriefed the conversations afterward. Patients’ concerns ran the gamut from side effects to infertility.

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Instilling vaccine confidence starts not with patients but with the next generation of immunizers.

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“We had to teach students how to address those questions because it was hard to keep up. I had to listen to the news every day myself just to be prepared for the questions that patients were going to bring into the clinic that day,” Layson-Wolf said.

For Layson-Wolf and Tran, seeing the students “in action” as providers was an especially rewarding aspect of being part of the COVID-19 vaccine rollout.

“This was a challenging experience,” Layson-Wolf said. “But if we had to do it again, I know we could.”

Resources to Educate Your Health Care Team, Discuss the Importance of COVID-19 Vaccination, and Answer Common Questions about COVID-19 vaccine are available at APhA’s Vaccine Confident microsite.