Vaccinations in a pharmacy are becoming the norm. The public health departments are happy that pharmacists are giving vaccines because the availability increases the rate of adult vaccines which have been below the expected level.
We started to administer vaccines, flu and shingles two years ago when pharmacists were first allowed to administer the Zostavax and the Pneumovax-23 in Connecticut. All the chain and grocery stores were already giving flu vaccines and we had been having successful Zostavax clinics in our pharmacy for a few years. So it made sense to start administering them ourselves.
There are a few steps that need to be taken before you start. The first step is to get trained and certified. University of Connecticut and the American Pharmacist Association have had one day programs in our area, but you would need to contact them to find out when they are being held. You also need to be CPR certified and do yearly CE’s to maintain your vaccination certification.
The main resource I use is www.immunize.org. That website has a lot of useful information that you will need to implement your vaccination program. The website has checklists, Vaccine Information Sheets (VIS), screening questionnaires, standing order paperwork as well as tons of information on diseases, vaccines and general immunization knowledge. The Merck vaccine sales representatives have also been extremely helpful to me. The reps have given me support in starting our program as well as continued education as we move along. Their website www.merckvaccines.com is also a useful website. I also went to our local CVS and they showed me how they run their program and what needles they use.
The next step is to find a doctor to give you a standing order. A standing order will allow patients to walk in the pharmacy and receive a vaccine without needing a prescription. Getting a doctor to sign the standing order could be challenging. We have a retired doctor who is still active who signed for us. I would suggest asking a local doctor in a private practice who you have a good relationship with, or a doctor who has an interest in public health.
To bill for the flu and pneumovax-23 you will need a separate p-tan number through Medicare. The Zostavax is covered by Medicare D plans. Some private insurance will cover the flu and shingles vaccines. (We will start administering Pneumovax-23 in July, so I don’t have experience on how private insurance covers that vaccine.) Make sure you bill an administration fee to the insurance. Most, but not all will pay for the administration.
Last step, ordering! You may want to order a low amount of flu vaccines the first year to determine how many you will go through. You have to pre-book to get good prices, but you can always reorder during the season if you run out. As far as the Zostavax, we keep it in stock now that the shortage is over and we will probably keep a smaller amount of Pneumovax-23 in stock as well. If you don’t want to order in 10 Zostavax at a time, you can always keep a waiting list until you have enough people interested.
I won’t lie to you; I did have a few sleepless nights getting ready for our first flu season. But once we got started it flowed very nicely into our workflow routine. I enjoy talking to people and educating them about vaccines. And I’m proud when someone who’s never had a flu vaccine gets it from me for the first time and comes back the next year to get it again. After all the whole purpose of pharmacists giving vaccines is to increase vaccination rates. Plus it brings in new customers and satisfies our existing customers.
Feel free to contact me if you have any questions starting your own vaccination program. Jean Keating, Granby Pharmacy 860-653-2517 firstname.lastname@example.org