Pharmacy Technician Employs Proactive, Personal Approach in Vaccine Conversations

Certified pharmacy technicians Amber Coleman (right) and Kristy Roberts outside Walgreens in Gulfport, Mississippi, before heading to a local long-term care facility for a COVID-19 vaccine clinic.

In the past, Amber Coleman, CPhT, might have taken vaccines for granted. Working in the pharmacy profession for 20 years, Coleman didn’t question that vaccines were safe and effective. But when the first COVID-19 vaccine came out, less than a year after most people had first heard of the virus, she said, “I will admit, I was hesitant myself to get the vaccine.”

Even as an experienced pharmacy technician, Coleman wondered how thoroughly the vaccine had been tested before the FDA authorized it for emergency use. But her hesitation soon transformed into awe.

“Once we all got that first shot, the hesitancy went away,” Coleman said. “Learning that a vaccine could come out so quickly and safely was a huge lesson for me. It was such an accomplishment. It really was mind-blowing.”

With her appreciation of vaccines renewed, Coleman has been actively instilling vaccine confidence in others.

Recently, at the Mississippi Walgreens where Coleman is a vaccine lead, she met a woman who was not convinced of the need for a COVID-19 booster. The woman, in her late 40s, had reluctantly gotten the primary series but didn’t understand why she needed to continue getting additional doses.

Coleman explained that COVID-19 was similar to the flu in that when new strains emerge, updated formulations of the vaccine are needed. “When I compared it to the flu vaccine, she was more comfortable, since the flu vaccine has been around a lot longer.”

To further bolster the woman’s motivation for vaccination, Coleman asked the woman whether she lived with small children, older adults, or anyone else who might have a weak immune system and discovered that the woman’s parents lived with her. Coleman explained why it was important that everyone in the household be vaccinated against COVID-19 in order to offer the best protection to her parents.

Practice Pearl

Proactively ask everyone who visits the pharmacy whether they have received the COVID-19 vaccine primary series and boosters.

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The woman still seemed unsure. She started to walk away, then turned back and asked, “Have you gotten the booster?”

“I said, ‘Of course I have. Not only because of my line of work but because I also have an immunocompromised family member,’” Coleman said.

The woman grasped the importance of vaccination and got her booster shot.

“I think that was what finally made her comfortable with it—that I related to her personally and told her why I got the vaccine. That I wasn’t just someone at the pharmacy pushing her to get it or making her feel bad for not getting it. I’m not here to do that.”

Protecting elderly patients is a cause that’s particularly important to Coleman. As soon as the COVID-19 vaccines became available, she sprang into action to coordinate and staff vaccine clinics at as many long-term care and assisted living facilities as possible. From March 2021 until January 2023, Coleman has coordinated primary and booster doses for some of the area’s oldest and most vulnerable patients and she has played a part in protecting more than 5,000 patients from COVID-19 and influenza.

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