Pharmacists will play an important role in issuing the COVID-19 vaccine to the public, but that comes with challenges, said Sarah Lynch, clinical assistant professor of pharmacy practice at Binghamton University, State University of New York.
“Pharmacists have been playing an important role in vaccination administration and immunization rates for years, and the COVID vaccine is no different,” said Lynch. “In these early distribution phases, pharmacists have been tasked with managing vaccine supply for healthcare systems, with many also managing allocation and administration to employees. We'll see an even greater pharmacist role as community/retail pharmacies (CVS, Walgreens, grocery chains) start receiving their supplies in a widespread manner in the coming weeks.”
Currently, there's a shift in the type of pharmacist vaccinating: while community/retail pharmacists have typically handled the bulk of vaccinations, institutional and health systems pharmacists are expected to step up and administer immunizations within their healthcare systems. In some states, there are large proportions of pharmacists in these settings who are not yet trained, so there is high demand for immunization training programs,
While pharmacists are up to the challenge, it's not without its burdens, said Lynch.
“There are concerns, especially within chain pharmacies, about the increased workload of administering these vaccines,” said Lynch. “Certain larger chains have been granted contracts to manage administration at long-term care facilities. Some chains are hiring additional pharmacists to immunize, but in many cases staff have not been given details about whether additional help will be provided. With the current disorganized rollout process, it is unclear how pharmacies will be able to screen and triage individuals to receive the vaccine within the state-mandated guidelines. While it's exciting to be involved in such an important undertaking, the disorganization and enormous scale of the venture is weighing heavily on many pharmacists' minds.”