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News: Neighbourhood Pharmacies members give their best shot for flu season

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Over the past four years, the increased use of neighbourhood pharmacies as the location of choice for seasonal influenza vaccinations has demonstrated to governments and the Canadian public that pharmacies play an important and growing role in providing influenza vaccinations, says the Neighbourhood Pharmacy Association of Canada.   

Pharmacists are accessible and cost-effective members of the public health system, and this has been confirmed by recent research undertaken by Neighbourhood Pharmacies.

Now, with the influenza season almost upon us, Neighbourhood Pharmacies members stand even more ready and able to meet Canadians’ demand for influenza vaccinations, with thousands of pharmacies across Canada ready to help protect Canadians from influenza.

Commenting on the upcoming influenza season, Justin J. Bates, CEO, Neighbourhood Pharmacies, said: “Our members’ pharmacists and pharmacies have become an essential cornerstone in ensuring that Canadians have easy access to influenza vaccinations wherever they reside in Canada. Our pharmacists are partnering with other healthcare providers in a coordinated approach to decrease the number of under-vaccinated Canadians.  Pharmacies have the infrastructure and processes to provide more vaccines.  Governments and public health agencies will benefit from allocating more funding towards pharmacies as integrated service providers”.

Pharmacies have demonstrated the benefit of increasing community access to vaccines by increasing the influenza vaccination rate in Ontario by 450,000 more (extrapolates to approximately 1.1 million more across Canada). This represents a net gain to Ontario of approximately $3 million due to the decision to expand influenza vaccination to pharmacists (extrapolates to approximately $7.5 million across Canada).

Starting this month, Neighbourhood Pharmacies and its members will intensify their communication strategies to Canadians, to ensure that the demand for pharmacy-provided influenza vaccinations is increased in the 2016-2017 influenza season.

Background

Influenza is a respiratory infection caused primarily by influenza A and B viruses.  In Canada, influenza generally begins to occur in November, and although vaccination before the onset of the influenza season is preferred, the vaccine can still be administered up until the end of the season, although the effectiveness may be reduced if exposure to influenza viruses has already occurred.

The symptoms of seasonal influenza include fever, headache, muscle and joint pain, sore throat, congestion and cough.  About 10-20% of Canadians are infected each year, and that infection can lead to other complications, the most common of which is pneumonia.  Approximately 3,500 deaths occur in Canada due to influenza related illnesses.

The National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) recommends the influenza vaccine for all Canadians over six months of age, and emphasizes the even greater importance for certain higher-risk groups, including, but not limited to, persons with chronic illnesses, morbid obesity, cancer, disease or therapy-induced immune suppression, persons aged 65 years and over, pregnant women, indigenous peoples, healthcare workers and others who provide essential community services.

New Research Findings

New research in Ontario, which is applicable to other provinces, paints an even clearer picture of the value of pharmacist-administered influenza vaccinations.  The research data confirms that the provision of vaccinations make a positive and cost-effective contribution to the health of all Canadians.

  1. The benefits of adding pharmacists as immunizers are:
    1. Increased vaccination rate: 450,000 more vaccinations in Ontario (extrapolates to approximately 1.1 million more across Canada)
    2. Net gain to Ontario of approximately $3 million due to the decision to expand influenza vaccination to pharmacists (extrapolates to approximately $7.5 million across Canada)
    3. Cost-effectiveness: cost by provider (Ontario) is $8.00 less for pharmacists vs. MDs, similar in other provinces
    4. Productivity Costs: pharmacy vaccinations are more easily available and require less time investment, increasing productivity
  2. Patients now appreciate the accessibility of pharmacy when it comes to influenza vaccinations – 95% satisfaction rate
  3. Pharmacists have the skills to administer a broader range of vaccines beyond seasonal influenza.  Greater use of the pharmacy setting for other vaccinations (e.g. Tdap, menB, herpes zoster, HPV) could enhance the quality of immunization-centered care in the Canadian healthcare system
  4. The comparative value represented by pharmacy vaccinations must be assessed against Public Health (lower cost, but less effective), and MDs (higher cost but less timely access); health expenditure increases can be mitigated by a more comprehensive approach and increased funding to pharmacies