Public Not as Informed About COVID-19 Vaccines as They Once Were

Pharmacist Sina ChhayHiep draws up a COVID-19 vaccine at Harris Teeter Pharmacy in Aldie, Virginia.

Pharmacist Sina ChhayHiep draws up a COVID-19 vaccine at Harris Teeter Pharmacy in Aldie, Virginia.

Recently Sina ChhayHiep, PharmD, asked an older man who came into the Harris Teeter pharmacy in Aldie, Virginia, whether he’d had his second dose of the latest bivalent COVID-19 vaccine. His answer was, “I didn’t know I was supposed to get a second dose,” ChhayHiep recalls.

This type of encounter, she says, is typical these days.

“Some people are still unaware that there’s a second dose of the bivalent available for those who are over 65 or immunocompromised,” ChhayHiep said.

Three years ago, COVID-19 was all anyone heard on TV and the radio and read in the paper and online. In public spaces, people wore masks; industrial-sized hand sanitizer pumps were located at entrances and exits; and floor markers set six feet apart ensured the virus stayed at the front of everyone’s minds.

In those days, it was impossible to forget about COVID-19. Life itself provided constant reminders of the infection’s existence, and those reminders drove people to pharmacies en masse to get the vaccine the moment they were eligible for it. Everyone seemed to know when it was their turn in line, and they were eager to roll up their sleeves when the time came.

But that’s not the case anymore.

“It’s not on the news as much as it used to be. No one’s really wearing masks anymore. They’ve let their guard down,” said ChhayHiep.

As guards have gone down, so too has the demand for COVID-19 vaccines. But, ChhayHiep says, it’s not that acceptance of COVID-19 vaccines has diminished. Awareness has.

That means that the pharmacist’s role as an educator and communicator is even more important than ever. Pharmacists must be vigilant in their efforts to keep patients up to date on the latest COVID-19 vaccine recommendations and to ensure they know that the return to normalcy doesn’t mean the threat of the virus has passed. Staying up to date with vaccines is what keeps life normal.

For each patient that comes into the pharmacy, ChhayHiep says, “You actually just have to present the idea to them that the virus is still around, and you can still get it. We’re dispensing Paxlovid on a daily basis.”

Practice Pearl

Remind patients that COVID-19 disease is still in the community, and they might be due for a booster shot.

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ChhayHiep finds that if patients are already at the pharmacy for other vaccines, then the latest COVID-19 booster isn’t typically hard to sell them on.

When the older man she encountered in the pharmacy understood that he was due for another COVID-19 booster, he went ahead and got it. ChhayHiep encourages pharmacists to tell every patient who comes to the counter that COVID-19 is still spreading and that they might be due for another vaccine.

Resources to Discuss the Importance of COVID-19 Vaccination and Answer Common Questions about COVID-19 vaccines are available at APhA’s Vaccine Confident microsite.