Pharmacist input at health screenings can boost immunizations

Study published online in JAPhA

Initiatives like Healthy People 2020 aim to increase immunization rates, but despite a general understanding among most Americans that vaccines prevent disease, adult vaccination coverage remains low. Case in point: only about 38% of adults between ages 18 and 64 years get an annual influenza vaccination. But pharmacists can help change that simply by performing an immunization check-up and making recommendations at annual health screenings, according to a study published online in the JAPhA.

In the study, researchers evaluated the impact of an immunization check-up in individuals who participated in 1 of 252 pharmacist-provided Kroger employee health screenings in central Virginia in 2015. At the screenings, the pharmacist assessed each participant’s need for immunization against influenza; pneumonia; herpes zoster; tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis (Tdap); and hepatitis B. The pharmacist also reviewed each participant’s self-reported immunization history, disease state history, age, and smoking status. The pharmacist then made vaccine recommendations based on guidance from CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, and noted the recommendations in each patient’s profile in the Kroger Pharmacy computer system. All told, the pharmacist made 349 vaccine recommendations.

Six months after the health screenings, the team reviewed the profiles to see if participants had received the recommended vaccinations and saw an overall acceptance rate of 45%. Influenza had an acceptance rate of 50%, a rate the researchers deem notable because it’s higher than the national average of 38% among adults. PCV13 also had an acceptance rate of 50%, while herpes zoster, Tdap, hepatitis B, and PPSV23 each had 42%, 35%, 33%, and 24% acceptance rates, respectively.

Although the study had a few limitations that could lower its external validity—most notably that participants all had health insurance that covered the cost of the immunizations—given the results, the researchers concluded that immunization check-ups performed at pharmacist-provided health screenings can prompt patients to get vaccinated.