Each year, approximately 10% of Europe’s population is infected with seasonal influenza (flu) and flu-related complications cause hundreds of thousands of hospitalisations across Europe. Older people, younger children and those with chronic conditions suffer the most but everyone is at risk of developing serious complications – which include pneumonia, myocarditis and encephalitis – that may result in death.

 

Flu Vaccination in Irish Community Pharmacies

 

In Ireland, community pharmacists have been involved in the HSE Seasonal Influenza Vaccination Campaign since 2011. The number of people receiving the flu vaccination in pharmacies continues to grow year-on-year, with pharmacists carrying out 78,935 flu vaccinations during the 2016/17 season. Pharmacist participation in vaccination services has significantly improved access to this vital healthcare intervention and accounts for around 10% of total flu vaccinations in Ireland.

 

Table 1: Flu Vaccinations in Community Pharmacies 2011 – 2017


 

International Research

 

Research in the US has found that, when pharmacists provide immunisations, they add to the overall number of patients being immunised, rather than take patients away from other immunisation channels. In fact, because of the increased awareness within communities, other providers are likely to see an increase in the number of vaccines they provide. Therefore, when pharmacists provide vaccines, everybody benefits – the pharmacist, other healthcare providers and, most of all, the patients and the community.

 

Patient Feedback on Pharmacy Vaccination Service

 

In March 2016, the Pharmaceutical Society of Ireland (PSI), the pharmacy regulator, published the results of market research on the pharmacy flu vaccination service. The research showed that 1 in 6 respondents who had been vaccinated in a pharmacy were first time patients for receiving the flu vaccine and a third of respondents had not received the vaccine from a pharmacy before.

Satisfaction with the service is high:

  • 99% of respondents rated their overall satisfaction with the pharmacy-delivered service as 8, 9 or 10 out of 10;
  • 95% said they were very satisfied with the amount of information received at the time of vaccination; and
  • 99% said that they would be likely to go to the pharmacist for their flu vaccination again.

Reasons for attending a pharmacy for the flu vaccination were convenience of access, efficiency (longer opening hours, no need for appointments etc.), trust in pharmacist and cost.

 

Increasing Demand

 

The HSE estimates that, between older people and at-risk people, over one million people should be vaccinated in Ireland. As the population ages and chronic disease rates keep increasing, this group will continue to grow. There is still great potential for the pharmacy vaccination service to grow and as the most accessible part pf the healthcare system, pharmacies are the ideal place for people to receive their flu vaccination.