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Pharmacies can administer vaccines at a lower cost than doctor's offices and medical clinics, study shows

The move would also make sense from a population health standpoint, since many people become sick, are hospitalized, or die from vaccine-preventable

Jeff Lagasse, Associate Editor

Providers and patients alike could stand to save time and money if federal law is reformed to allow pharmacists to administer all vaccines recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a new study released by the Pacific Research Institute found.

The move would also make sense from a population health standpoint, since many people become sick, are hospitalized, or die from vaccine-preventable illnesses each year. In fact, about 900,000 people get pneumococcal pneumonia each year, leading to 400,000 hospitalizations and 19,000 deaths, the data showed.

Right now, pharmacists are subject to a patchwork of laws in each state that are effectively barriers to vaccines being administered at neighborhood pharmacies. While flu shots are readily available, other commonly-prescribed vaccines, such as the shingles vaccine or pneumococcal pneumonia, are not. This access barrier exists even though pharmacists receive vaccination training in their pharmacy school education.

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The reason it would also safeguard providers' and patients' wallets is that pharmacies administer vaccines at a lower cost than doctor's offices and medical clinics. For example, it costs $208.72 on average to receive a shingles vaccine at a doctor's office, versus $168.50 at a pharmacy. The resultant decrease in utilization would ease pressures on the healthcare system generally, the findings showed.

The recommended "herd immunity threshold" to stop the spread of a disease is typically 95 percent, but the CDC has found that adult vaccination rates are very low. The target vaccination rate for the pneumonia vaccine for patients 65 years or older is 90 percent, but fewer than 64 percent of older Americans are vaccinated currently.

Reform would help to address those issues, and also improve access to healthcare in rural areas, which often don't have convenient access to doctors and clinics, the study found.

Twitter: @JELagasse
Email the writer: jeff.lagasse@himssmedia.com