Pharmacies injecting health
Vaccination Currently, pharmacies offer a limited number of vaccines. Could their offering be expanded, to help prevent even more diseases?
Daragh Connolly, a dedicated third generation pharmacist in Dungarvan, County Waterford, cares deeply about the practice and proud heritage of pharmacy.
He wants to make pharmacy a “really good job for the next generation.” To do this he believes there needs to be some developments in what pharmacies provide.
As President of the Irish Pharmacy Union, Mr Connolly wants to challenge and stretch pharmacies to offer new services to their communities, including a wide range of vaccines.
The Pharmacist’s role in their community
He believes that administering vaccines is a logical extension of the role of the pharmacist as a healthcare expert in the community.
“For more than half a century we’ve known how much good vaccines do for public health. When we (as pharmacists) administer the flu vaccine, patients constantly ask us if there are other vaccinations we offer.”
Since 2016, pharmacies have also administered the pneumococcal and herpes zoster vaccines. Pharmacists even look after 7,000 recovering intravenous drug users who are being treated with opiate replacements and provide needle exchange services to many others.
Mr Connolly says: “We are the interface with this at-risk group and help prevent the spread of Hepatitis. We would like to be able to offer Hepatitis B vaccines in pharmacies.”
According to Mr Connolly, travel vaccination is also an area that pharmacists could become involved in. “Travel vaccinations are both safe and effective. Pharmacies have consultation areas where a pharmacist can carry out a pre-travel consultation to determine exactly what vaccinations are needed.”
Reducing pressure on hospitals and schools
“The most expensive place to look after people is in an ambulance. The most cost-effective place is in a pharmacy. Ireland has one of the highest rates of meningococcal infections in Europe, for example, including meningitis and septicaemia,” he says.
The MenB vaccine is offered as part of the Primary Childhood Immunisation Programme for all babies born on or after 1 October 2016. “Many parents with children born before this date have expressed an interest in having their children vaccinated as a private service, which community pharmacies could provide,” Mr Connolly continued.
A Government scheme to vaccinate against Human Papillomavirus (HPV) is currently run through secondary schools; however, Mr Connolly believes that if parents had the additional option of bringing their adolescents to a pharmacist instead, the uptake would be even higher.
While some doctors, nurses and other healthcare providers might be concerned about pharmacies expanding their role to offer vaccines, Mr Connolly is confident they would benefit.
He says: “Medicine and primary healthcare is a team effort. We are not looking to replace what GPs and nurses offer but I would like us to identify the gaps and see how we can get more people vaccinated effectively and safely.”
“It makes sense to free up the burden on secondary and tertiary care and offer timely, cost-effective access to healthcare at the primary level, with a focus on prevention of serious illnesses.
“Pharmacists are trained in administering injections but we need more Government action so we can expand the scope to offer more services. It just makes good sense.”