Student Pharmacist Leverages Her Position to Connect With Younger Patients

Student pharmacist Mahdeed Raja (right) prior to a vaccine clinic at Sav-On Pharmacy in Henderson, Nevada.

Student pharmacist Mahdeed Raja (right) prior to a vaccine clinic at Sav-On Pharmacy in Henderson, Nevada.

Student pharmacist Mahdeed Raja sees her status as a novice immunizer and clinician-in-training as a strength, not a weakness, when it comes to building patients’ vaccine confidence. The Roseman University of Health Sciences student leverages both her knowledge and youthfulness to connect with young adults and adolescents who are feeling uncertain about the COVID-19 vaccine.

“As a student, because I only recently learned all of this vaccine information myself and I remember not having this knowledge, I may be able to fill the gaps in young people’s knowledge a little bit better than someone who has 20 years’ experience,” Raja said.

At Sav-On Pharmacy in Henderson, Nevada, where Raja administered COVID-19 vaccines during her clinical rotation, she frequently found herself dispelling vaccine myths that young people had picked up on Facebook or TikTok—platforms Raja uses, too.

“The idea that the COVID-19 vaccine had a microchip in it was a big one. [Patients] would ask me if the government was going to chip them,” Raja said.

Raja treated questions generated from misinformation with as much respect as she did practical questions about side effects or dosing schedule. “It’s not my place to judge,” she said. “But it is my place to educate.”

In response to the microchip questions, Raja shows patients the vaccine ingredients list and explains what each ingredient is.

The student pharmacist also has instilled vaccine confidence in parents of young children. She recalls a young mother who hadn’t been vaccinated herself and was apprehensive when her son’s private school required him to be vaccinated for school attendance.

“She thought that the vaccine gives you COVID—that was the main misconception this parent had,” Raja said. She explained to the mother how the vaccine works to protect people against COVID-19 without infecting them with the virus.

Raja explains this to patients frequently—most often those who call the pharmacy after receiving the vaccine with concerns about the flu-like symptoms they are having.

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Eventually, the mother allowed Raja to vaccinate her son. Raja also encouraged the woman to get the vaccine but doesn’t know whether she came back for it.

When Raja doesn’t already know the answer to a patient’s question, she doesn’t let that intimidate her. She angles her computer screen so the patient can see it and explains the answer as they look at the information together.

“That way, we can read it together, and they know how to access that information on their own,” Raja said.

The purpose of educating patients, Raja said, isn’t only to make the individual patient more confident about vaccines—it is also to equip those patients to instill vaccine confidence in others. “When you help them understand, it goes a long way. They may go and tell their friends, their family, or convince their parents,” she said. “We are making them our allies.”

Resources to help Tailor Your Outreach to specific populations and Answer Common Questions about COVID-19 vaccine are available at APhA’s Vaccine Confident microsite.