Promoting Vaccination Rates Through Patient Engagement and Education
Pharmacist Tyler Duncan administers a COVID-19 vaccine to a patient at her car in the parking area outside Baggett Pharmacy in Kingston, Tennessee.
In the small town of Kingston, Tennessee, Tyler Duncan, PharmD, and the staff at Baggett Pharmacy are making a big impact on their community. When a prescription gets filled at the pharmacy, staff members go the extra mile to review the patient’s vaccination needs. They review the state’s vaccine registry and determine which vaccinations are needed. When the patient arrives to pick up the prescribed medication, the pharmacist takes the time to educate on any CDC-recommended vaccines that the patient lacks, including the latest COVID-19 vaccines and boosters.
During the review process, patients are provided with a copy of their state vaccine registry profile, along with a list of any vaccinations that are needed. This step allows those patients to look over the information when they get home, facilitate a conversation with their physician, and also acts as a reminder. Patients appreciate seeing all their vaccine information in one place. Many patients have even provided Duncan with additional vaccination records to add to their profile on the state’s vaccine registry.
While working to provide vaccinations to the community, Duncan has found that the program at Baggett Pharmacy has helped build vaccine confidence in several distinct groups of his patients.
First, there are the patients who have come to place value on COVID-19 vaccines over all other vaccines. These are the people who were first in line to get vaccinated and who have stayed up to date with boosters. However, their focus on COVID-19 immunization may have overshadowed other vaccines that they may have fallen behind on during the last few years.
Second, there are those patients who are current with all of their other CDC-recommended vaccinations, but they may be hesitant with COVID-19 vaccines. Whether they saw them as being “too new” or even bought into misinformation, the COVID-19 vaccines, in their minds, were set apart from other, more established, tried-and-true vaccines.
Third, there are the patients who are vaccine fatigued. These patients received the initial COVID-19 primary series but are undecided about receiving a booster or do not know they are eligible for an additional booster. “They just hadn’t been keeping up with it, and when I tell them they are due for a booster, they say, ‘You’re right. I do need it. Let’s schedule a time,’” Duncan said.
Duncan has observed that grouping a patient’s missing vaccines together on the same printout works to boost vaccine confidence. He said, “For some people, it makes it clear that the COVID vaccine is just another vaccination you need to get, like shingles or tetanus. For others, it gets them thinking about the vaccines they haven’t thought about since the beginning of the pandemic.”
But not everyone who is due for another dose of a COVID-19 vaccine is as willing. These patients may say they need to think about it or that they are done getting COVID-19 vaccines. With these patients, Duncan and his staff rely on education about other vaccinations to continue the discussion of the need for future COVID-19 boosters. Eventually, many of them, Duncan said, do come around and get vaccinated.
Normalize COVID-19 vaccines so patients learn to consider them as they would any other scheduled vaccine.
A grant from the APhA Foundation’s “Project IMPACT: Immunizations” has afforded pharmacists at Baggett Pharmacy the time to check the state vaccine registry and provide patients with recommendations. This program works with independent pharmacies to promote vaccination rates throughout the community and reduce the cost of care over time.
“If you can prevent that one person from getting COVID-19 or keep them off a ventilator, it’s worth those few minutes at the window to say, ‘This shot is available. Just think about it.’”
Resources to Know What Drives Vaccine Confidence and help Discuss the Importance of COVID-19 Vaccination are available at APhA’s Vaccine Confident microsite.