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Pharmacists – and PrimeRx™ – Can Have a Role in Addressing Patient Vaccine Hesitancy

Pharmacists – and PrimeRx™ – Can Have a Role in Addressing Patient Vaccine Hesitancy

New Jersey will give residents a free beer for getting a COVID-19 vaccine. The New York Yankees are offering a free ticket. Ohio will enter residents in a lottery for the chance to win an eye-popping $1 million, and Maryland is giving state employees a $100 cash reward.

Then there are the media personalities who are incentivizing their viewers. Late night comedy shows, Tik Tok videos, and Instagram posts are full of celebrities pleading with Americans to roll up their sleeves for a COVID-19 vaccine.

Despite these herculean efforts, a sizeable portion of the population, about 40 percent, say they are either a "maybe" (18 percent) or an outright "no" (22 percent) when asked about their likelihood of getting a vaccine.

Those findings, based on late April research from CBS News/YouGov, identified four key reasons behind the reluctance to get vaccinated:

• Still too untested – will wait and see – 53 percent.

• Worried about side effects – 40 percent.

• News about clots/other problems – 36 percent.

• Don't trust the government – 35 percent.

This high level of "vaccine hesitancy" comes at a time when health authorities cite the need for as many Americans as possible to get vaccinated to end the COVID-19 pandemic, and as several mutations of the virus have proven to be more transmissible than the original virus.

But, as legislators, A-listers, and concerned businesses try to lure residents into receiving a vaccine with incentives and targeted messages, is it possible the most effective vaccine educators are located in a nearby pharmacy.

In fact, community pharmacists are already playing a role in helping to allay patient concerns about the vaccine, mostly by providing fact-based guidance, and putting potential risks in perspective. To help facilitate those conversations, U.S. Pharmacist suggested several "open-ended" questions that pharmacists could use when counseling vaccine-hesitant patients. These suggestions include: 

• Finding out the patient's concerns and fears about vaccines and addressing them with safety and efficacy information when applicable.

• Listening to the patient, acknowledging their fears or concerns, and making them feel at ease by providing them with pertinent facts.

• Providing patients with information about how vaccines work and how the immune system responds to vaccines to build immunity.

• Providing patients with information on the clinical benefits of vaccines and the importance of staying up to date with vaccines recommended by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP). Reviewing the health implications associated with not obtaining protection against vaccine-preventable diseases.

• Discussing the potential adverse effects and how they are addressed. Use the fact sheets available from the CDC or other reputable health organizations such as the Immunization Action Coalition (IAC).

• Sharing personal experiences with vaccines to build a level of trust.

• Answering patient questions and making recommendations accordingly.

• Instructing patients to discuss any further concerns with their primary health care provider based on their medical and medication history.

In consulting with patients about COVID-19 vaccines, pharmacists can also rely on their PrimeRx™ technology management system as an important tool. Applicable PrimeRx™ features include:

Immediate access to patient records. A pharmacist can quickly access a patient's comprehensive pharmacy record to identify previous conversations or notes about potential vaccine hesitancy. PrimeRx™ allows users to capture detailed notes and observations about patient interactions, offering useful guidance in allaying concerns about the COVID-19 vaccine.

Direct integration with VUCA Health. VUCA Health offers participating pharmacies and their patients access to an extensive library of digital medication guides and information sheets to help patients better understand the purpose of their medications and anticipate any potential side effects. VUCA Health recently launched, which provides extensive information about various vaccines, including those developed to counter COVID-19. PrimeRx™ users can integrate directly with VUCA Health from the PrimeRx™ home screen for easy access to this important information.

Outbound SMS/Texts and Emails. Sometimes all a patient needs is a gentle reminder about the importance of getting a vaccine, or a few easy steps to follow that make the process as fast and easy as possible. PrimeRx™ allows pharmacies to generate emails and texts that accomplish both objectives. Outbound messages can be programmed and sent at a predetermined time to select patients with information about the importance of getting vaccinated, with a subsequent message that includes information about how to obtain a vaccine at the pharmacy or at a nearby facility.

Seamless account management. PrimeRx™ automatically updates patient records to reflect interactions to address the patient's vaccine hesitancy.

Educating patients about COVID-19 vaccines and helping them determine if it's in their best interest to receive an immunization is yet another way in which pharmacists are serving on the front lines of the health emergency. By providing this critical information, pharmacists demonstrate why patients hold them in such high regard, and continually rank them at the top of listings for "most trusted" professions.

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