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Vaccine Awareness

Pharmacists, the Unsung Heroes of the Pandemic

Photo: Courtesy of National Cancer Institute

B. Douglas Hoey

Pharmacist, MBA, CEO, National Community Pharmacists Association

Scott J. Knoer, MS, PharmD, FASHP

Executive Vice President and CEO, American Pharmacists Association

During the start of the pandemic in March, pharmacists swung into action, developing plans to keep serving their communities’ evolving needs as safely as possible.

Identified as essential health providers, pharmacists promptly adopted curbside pickups, prescription deliveries, and new safety installations like plexiglass barriers. When hand sanitizer was difficult to find, compounding pharmacies began making it. They often donated sanitizer to other health workers and local officials, along with masks and personal protective equipment. We’ve seen pharmacists inspire their communities to come together, creating handmade greeting cards to help show some love to patients, particularly those who are older or had been isolated from friends and family.

These are just a few of the remarkable things that pharmacists have done to keep their communities safe. They have been among the most trusted professions for decades and, to no one’s surprise, when their communities needed them most, they stepped up to the plate.

Essential workers

But other health concerns haven’t gone away. If anything, it’s more important now to get a handle on existing health issues, which might increase a patient’s risk for COVID-19.

For millions of Americans, a pharmacist is the most accessible — if not the only — healthcare provider who can help them be their healthiest. Nearly 95 percent of the population lives within 5 miles of a pharmacy. And for thousands of communities, an independent pharmacy is their only pharmacy. Their pharmacist can help patients manage diabetes, monitor blood pressure, and manage multiple medications.

Keeping a vaccination routine

Pharmacists also play an important role in immunizing patients against the flu and other illnesses, answering vaccine-related questions, and addressing vaccine hesitancy. This will become critical when we finally have a commercially available COVID-19 vaccine. Millions of Americans will need the vaccine and will turn to their trusted pharmacist for it.

In the meantime, everyone must still stay current on their routine vaccines. Doing so can keep patients and their loved ones healthy, especially as we safely reopen schools and businesses.

Unfortunately, during the coronavirus pandemic, some vaccination rates have dropped, leaving individuals vulnerable to vaccine-preventable diseases including polio and smallpox. Most pharmacists can help you remain current on routine vaccines safely and conveniently. Whether you visit your neighborhood pharmacy or a different provider, the point is to get immunized.

Talk with your pharmacists about which vaccines are right for you and what safety protocols are in place so you can feel comfortable being immunized. Pharmacists are essential healthcare providers. Pharmacies are essential businesses. Getting recommended vaccinations protects yourself and others.

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