This project aims to develop and distribute patient educational materials to pharmacies in Tennessee to increase COVID-19 immunization rates, particularly pharmacist-administered vaccines. Patient-friendly educational pamphlets have been created, tailored to the pharmacy setting. These pamphlets will help pharmacists educate their patients about the vaccine, and provide patients with accurate yet approachable information to combat vaccine hesitancy. The content and approach of this campaign will remain consistent with the programs and messaging disseminated from the Tennessee Department of Health. Conducted in collaboration with the Tennessee Pharmacists Association (TPA) and its student arm, the Tennessee Society of Student Pharmacists (TSSP), this project works towards increasing awareness, education, and accessibility of the COVID-19 vaccine, in order to decrease patient vaccine hesitancy and increase public immunization rates.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Tennessee currently ranks as the sixth-lowest U.S. state in percentage of COVID-19 vaccine uptake. Only 41% of Tennesseans have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) via Emergency Use Authorization. There are a lot of external factors influencing patients’ decisions to accept or deny the data and science behind COVID-19 vaccines. To address these external factors and decrease vaccine hesitancy and increase vaccine administration rates, difficult conversations and consultations must be made.
Why do COVID-19 vaccination rates need to be increased?
We know that vaccines work by mimicking the infectious virus that causes diseases, stimulating the body’s immune system to build up the necessary defenses for that virus. We also know that vaccines are one of the best methods of preventing the transmission of COVID-19. Patients who are not vaccinated are at increased risk of contracting and transmitting COVID-19. Tennessee currently ranks among the worst states in the U.S. in regards to chronic diseases. The CDC has ranked Tennessee in the top five states in prevalence of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and chronic lower respiratory disease. Since COVID-19 reached the U.S., we have found that individuals who are older (>65 years of age), suffer with pulmonary issues (COPD, asthma, lung cancer, cystic fibrosis, etc.), have heart disease (cardiomyopathy, congenital heart disease, heart failure, etc.), have diabetes, or are obese are at higher risk for worse outcomes and developing serious COVID-19 symptoms.
What can you do to help increase COVID-19 vaccination rates?
The most recent Honesty and Ethics poll by Gallup in 2019 ranks pharmacists as the fourth most trusted professionals in the United States, at 65%. We know that pharmacists across the country are on the front lines and play a critical role in COVID-19 vaccine administration rates. With the level of trust that patients have in pharmacists, counseling sessions and consultations are some of the most effective ways of understanding our patients’ vaccine hesitancies. Pharmacists can start by targeting their patients who are considered at high risk for worse outcomes as a result of COVID-19.
How do you have difficult conversations with patients?
With all of the external factors influencing patients’ decisions about whether or not to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, these conversations won’t come easily. It is beyond important that you keep in mind and understand that a lot of people have valid reasons as to why they do not trust the COVID-19 vaccine’s safety and efficacy. According to public health officials at the Department of Health and Human Services, you must listen to the patient, rather than assume you already know the reasons why they are hesitant to receive the vaccine. It is important to listen and orchestrate your conversation around what the patient has to say. There are several helpful links below that will help with those conversations, as well as educational materials about vaccination and each of the current COVID-19 vaccines available.
What we ask of you:
If you find this information to be helpful, please complete this provider survey to help with a current research study intended to identify effective COVID-19 educational resources and materials.
If you would like additional COVID-19 vaccine resources or counseling resources, please contact Alec Sain, PharmD, at covid19@localhost or 615-256-3023.
- Patient-Friendly Pamphlet for Pharmacy Settings: COVID-19 Vaccination Benefits
- CDC: Vaccine Recipient Education
- CDC: How to Talk to Your Patients about COVID-19 Vaccination
- CDC: Frequently Asked Questions about COVID-19 Vaccination
- FDA: Pfizer COVID-19 Vaccine Fact Sheet for Recipients and Caregivers
- FDA: Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine Fact Sheet for Recipients and Caregivers
- FDA: Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine Fact Sheet for Recipients and Caregivers
- Mayo Clinic: Who’s at Higher Risk of Serious COVID
- Rush Edu: Addressing COVID-19 Vaccine Hesitancy