Perfect match: Pharmacists and workplace immunization programs

Arizona public health informatics company spearheads All American Flu Fighters project

Workplace influenza vaccination programs are nothing new, but an Arizona public health informatics company, with the hope of improving influenza vaccination rates, is spearheading one that puts pharmacists on the front lines.

Scientific Technologies Corporation (STC), a company that has worked primarily for the past 25 years on state immunization registries, began the All American Flu Fighters (A2F2) project last year with a small group of Arizona companies. According to Mike Popovich, CEO of STC, most worksite programs typically get about 40% of employees vaccinated for influenza. A2F2 wanted to increase that number to 80% and was encouraged by the 70% compliance rate they saw last year in the companies that participated. In addition, Popovich said companies even saw their sick leave numbers decline—in one case by 58%.

“It inspired us to broaden the program this year,” Popovich told Pharmacy Today. Lacking from the program last year, however, was the relationship with a provider who could come onsite and administer the vaccine. The team realized pharmacists were the perfect match. “Pharmacists are the answer; they are available and accessible,” Scott Hamstra, MD, a pediatrician and medical advisor to STC, told Today.

More companies choosing pharmacists

Working with the local Arizona chapter of a professional group called Vistage International that represents CEOs, A2F2 signed up more than 20 companies for the worksite influenza vaccine program this fall and kicked off the campaign October 1. “CEOs get it right away because they are businessmen, and they understand that time is money, so it’s easy to get them on board,” said Popovich.

Companies have a choice: they can either use the onsite clinician their health insurance plan provides—typically a nurse—or they can work with a local pharmacist. “They are finding that more and more places are using pharmacists because pharmacists have more flexibility, they are more accessible, and many of them want to work on this project,” said Lisa Tonrey, BSPharm, MHA, PhC, FAPhA, Pharmacy Delivery Advisor for STC, former commissioned officer of the U.S. Public Health Service, and 2003–2004 APhA President.

Popovich said more than a quarter of the companies that signed up this year will choose the pharmacist route. One of those companies is IOTA, a mid-sized engineering firm based in Tucson. The company participated in the program last year and decided to sign up again this fall based on the positive feedback they received. IOTA employees said they liked the program because they didn’t have to take time out of their day and could no longer make an excuse for not getting the vaccine.

“We wanted to participate again this year because it was effective,” Julie Saldana, Human Resource Specialist at IOTA, told Today. She said it was also more cost-effective to have pharmacists come out and administer the vaccine. IOTA is using Costco, which charges $14.99 for an influenza vaccine or bills the individual’s insurance company.

Uptake across the country

Through the ­Arizona Partner-ship for Immunization, A2F2 is formally working with Walgreens pharmacists who jumped on board from the get-go. “We felt like this would be a natural fit since we are all working toward the same goal of increasing immunization rates in the state,” James Cohn, a Walgreens spokesperson, told Today.

Popovich said Walgreens was willing to send pharmacists onsite to companies with as few as 10 employees and will help them eliminate barriers for businesses that might not otherwise be able to participate. Next year, STC plans to roll out the program to more companies in Arizona. Popovich said if the company gets the results it anticipates, it will also work with Vistage to make the program available to CEOs across the country.

“Pharmacists are really the ones to take the country to the next level of vaccinating against diseases, and it’s programs like this that affect the CEO and can really have some significant uptake,” said Popovich.