Auburn pharmacy researcher receives CDC funding for immunization education and training

Published: September 27, 2018
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With almost $1 million in funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an Auburn University pharmacy researcher is working to develop new and innovative education programs for pharmacists, ultimately improving vaccination processes and standards, and potentially saving lives through increased vaccination rates.

The proposed five-year project, titled “Enhancing Implementation of Immunization Practice Standards Among Independently Owned Community Pharmacies,” includes $199,734 in the first year and, if renewed, would increase to $998,162 over the life of the project.

For most people, the nearest health care provider is a pharmacist. Independent pharmacies make up nearly 40 percent of community pharmacies and many are located in population areas of 50,000 or less. The independent community pharmacies are a vital lifeline for people in these areas and providing access to vaccinations could be life-saving.

Through this program, Salisa Westrick, head of the Department of Health Outcomes Research and Policy in Auburn’s Harrison School of Pharmacy, and her research partner, David Ha, an infectious disease expert at the Keck Graduate Institute, will partner with the National Community Pharmacists Association, or NCPA, Innovation Center to deliver a comprehensive program that seeks to improve pharmacy personnel knowledge related to immunization practice standards and reduce implementation barriers.

“Community pharmacists are increasingly accepted as immunization providers by patients, physicians and national organizations and continue to assist in the efforts to increase immunization rates,” said Westrick. “As pharmacists become more engaged in immunization activities, it is critical for pharmacists to coordinate, collaborate and communicate with other health care providers and public health programs. Awareness of, as well as adherence to, the current standards and recommendations become greatly important.”

The proposed program will deliver education to pharmacy personnel in an effort to fulfill four key objectives:

  • Awareness of and adherence to current recommendations from the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, or ACIP

  • Implementation of proper administration, storage and handling of vaccines

  • Implementation of immunization practice standards, including documentation of vaccines administered in the state or local immunization information system (IIS) and transfer of vaccination records to other health care providers

  • Development and implementation of plans to promote pandemic vaccination preparedness activities

Additionally, the program will provide relevant resources available through multiple channels to facilitate implementation and enhancement of immunization services, and collaboration with other stakeholders to facilitate adoption and reduce barriers to implementation.

“I have been working in the area of pharmacy-based immunization services since the early 2000s. I am proud of our profession — we have made great strides in the area of immunization services and it is evident that pharmacists play an integral role in public health,” said Westrick. “The training programs that will be developed will further equip pharmacists and pharmacy technicians with knowledge and skills to continue to provide the best care for their patients, to communicate with other health care providers, and to serve as a key public health partner in the area of emergency preparedness and response.”

Working with the NCPA, the first year of the project includes a survey of community pharmacists regarding their current immunization practices and their participation in emergency preparedness responses at their local, state and the federal levels.

Once complete, the data will be used to create immunization training programs. Over the course of the project, training will be offered in online home study, live webinars, live sessions at NCPA meetings and written continuing education articles.

With the first year of the project dedicated to developing the training programs, the actual launch of the programs will follow in the subsequent years. The first program, focusing on ACIP recommendations and proper administration, storage and handling of vaccines, will launch in 2020. Training in documentation of vaccinations will launch in 2021, while pharmacy participation in emergency preparedness and response will launch in 2022.

Auburn University's Harrison School of Pharmacy is ranked among the top 20 percent of all pharmacy schools in the United States, according to U.S. News & World Report. Fully accredited by the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE), the School offers doctoral degrees in pharmacy (Pharm.D.) and pharmaceutical sciences (Ph.D.) while also offering a master's in pharmaceutical sciences. For more information about the School, please call 334.844.8348 or visit the Harrison School of Pharmacy website.