Pharmacists are front-line heroes, too

Pharmacists are the most accessible health resource nationwide, with nearly 95% of Americans living within 5 miles of a pharmacy, notes Craig Ford, senior vice president of pharmacy at LexisNexis Risk Solutions.

Pharmacists are the most accessible health resource nationwide, with nearly 95% of Americans living within 5 miles of a pharmacy, notes Craig Ford, senior vice president of pharmacy at LexisNexis Risk Solutions. When pandemic lockdowns led to reductions in patient visits to physicians, many consumers turned to local pharmacists to obtain advice regarding medication adherence, chronic disease management, and general wellness. "In fact, since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, almost 30 states have taken affirmative action to ensure pharmacists have the full ability to order and administer COVID-19 testing and expand capacity," Ford writes. Meanwhile, COVID-19 vaccine administration by pharmacists is likely to play an important role. One study found that community pharmacies can mitigate against 23.7 million pandemic symptomatic cases, resulting in a cost savings of nearly $100 billion. Separately, the CDC Pandemic Influenza Vaccine Study found that weekly national vaccine administration capacity increased to 25 million doses per week when community pharmacist vaccination capacity was included in the model. In that study, the time to achieve 80% vaccination coverage nationally was estimated to be reduced by 7 weeks, assuming high public demand. "Our unsung heroes continue to show their commitment to fulfill community needs and demonstrate value on the health care team, but barriers remain," writes Ford. "State-specific restrictions need to be lifted to enable pharmacists to deliver broader testing, and of course, they need to be reimbursed for clinical services." He asserts the "pandemic is an inflection point for pharmacists as providers, proving that they can expand care services while meeting their behind-the-counter responsibilities."