As a pharmacist and mother-to-be, I can’t stress enough how important it is to get vaccinated.
Each year in August, National Immunization Awareness Month draws attention to the value of immunizations with activities focused on encouraging people of all ages to protect their health by getting vaccinated against infectious diseases.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), influenza causes the highest rates of complications and hospitalizations among young children and adults over 65 years old. In the US itself, influenza and its complications cause an average of 49,000 deaths and more than 200,000 hospitalizations each year.
Getting the flu vaccine can severely reduce your chances of getting the flu. If you get vaccinated and still contract the flu, it may be a less severe case.
However, even with all of the information we know about vaccine-preventable diseases like the flu, HPV, the measles or Hepatitis B, there are still plenty of misconceptions about the value of immunizations.
Here are 10 ways your pharmacist can help you stay educated and get the vaccines you and your loved ones need.
1. Pharmacists can help you read immunization schedules, as they tend to get confusing.
An updated vaccine schedule is published annually and is available on the CDC website. It is also published in the MMWR, a CDC publication.
The schedules vary depending on your occupation and age, so your pharmacist can shed light on the differences and, in particular, can help you figure out which information is most relevant to you.
2. Pharmacists are endorsed by the CDC and various other organizations to administer vaccines.
State laws permit all pharmacists to administer immunizations, although the types of vaccines vary from state to state.
The CDC recognizes pharmacists as key contributors to immunization efforts. Most importantly, pharmacists need to be licensed and trained to administer vaccines, so you can feel comfortable that you’re in good hands.
3. Your pharmacist can have a one-on-one discussion with you on the barriers and media misconceptions that prevent people from getting the proper vaccinations.
For example, some false information floating around is that vaccines do not work and are cost-prohibitive. Your pharmacist can review the data with you on the efficacy and safety of vaccines.
Also, it’s much cheaper to prevent a disease than to treat it, in most cases.
4. One of the most popular misunderstandings is people feel as though they’re healthy, and therefore, they don't need any preventative care.
Your pharmacist can provide data to disprove that theory.
5. Pharmacists are educated about the common misconceptions about vaccines, so they can have factual conversations with people who are vaccine-hesitant.
Often, when people are educated and exposed to the evidence behind immunizations, they can make a well-informed decision on whether or not to vaccinate themselves and their children.
6. Pharmacists are recognized as the most accessible healthcare professionals, with about 90 percent of Americans living within five miles of a community pharmacy, per the US Department of Health and Human Services.
Some pharmacies are open 24 hours a day and seven days a week, making it easy to pick a time that works with your schedule. You can walk in without an appointment and receive a vaccine, even on weekends, when many people are off from work.
Utilizing pharmacists for these important health initiatives improves access to quality care for all patients, especially young children and the elderly. It increases the likelihood they will receive appropriate preventative care.
7. While you’re picking up your maintenance medications at the pharmacy, your pharmacist can review your immunization records with you and let you know if you’re missing anything.
Recommendations change every year, so you could be behind on something and not even realize it. Not having these discussions results in missed opportunities and increases the likelihood you will get infected with a disease that could have been completely preventable.
8. Your pharmacist can evaluate your immunization requirements based on risk factors such as your age, lifestyle, health status, occupation and any conditions you may have.
This way, you can get very specific recommendations based on what you individually may need.
9. Any vaccines you receive will be documented in one place, and you can get a print-out for your personal health records.
10. You may only have 15 minutes with your physician to discuss what is currently bothering you, and he/she may not get a chance to mention vaccines.
By taking responsibility and asking your doctor or pharmacist the right questions yourself, you’re ensuring your own protection.
These pharmacist-oriented initiatives can make a crucial difference in enhancing public health. Stay educated and take advantage of the resources around you.
Vaccines have helped eliminate some of the most devastating diseases in history. Missing out on your vaccines puts you and others around you at risk for many preventable diseases and infections. With flu season coming up, all it takes is one visit a year to your pharmacist.
Why risk it?