Lauren Linkenauger doesn’t just talk about the role pharmacists play in delivering vaccines. Having spent her entire career at the forefront of innovations in vaccine delivery, she walks the walk.
Immunizations are one of the world’s biggest public health success stories, but people’s access can vary depending on where they live. Every year, more than 50,000 adults in the United States die from vaccine-preventable diseases such as the flu or shingles. Adult immunization rates are far below where they need to be.
Fortunately, pharmacists like Lauren are working to build “immunization neighborhoods” at places like Walgreens where people can get the vaccines they need. Walgreens, which started delivering flu shots more than 11 years ago, has stepped up to improve vaccine infrastructure by hiring more pharmacists and updating through health information technology to truly connect with patients. The pharmacy chain now has 27,000 pharmacists, nurse practitioners and physician assistants certified to provide immunizations, and offers all CDC recommended immunizations based on state regulations.
Pharmacists are a trusted source of information and they have a unique opportunity to engage customers. They can assess immunization status, make immunization recommendations, administer needed vaccines, and they can then close the loop by documenting the information electronically—or via snail mail if necessary—afterwards.
Pharmacies have several unique and inherent advantages that can help people get their needed vaccines. As Lauren notes, they offer convenient times for delivering immunizations—in fact, one-third of vaccines at pharmacies are administered outside of traditional business hours to accommodate patients. She also notes that pharmacies are situated in convenient locations, helping to reach medically underserved adults along with residents of inner cities and rural areas—no matter where they live, most people visit their local pharmacy at least twelve times per year!
Local pharmacists work with and across communities to reach underserved populations. Walgreens is a shining example of how these partnerships work successfully. Since 2010, Walgreens has collaborated with the US Department of Health and Human Services to provide more than $50 million worth of flu shots to uninsured and underserved adults through a free flu shot voucher. Through its Veterans Affair Retail Immunization Care Coordination Program, Walgreens also provided over 100,000 no-cost flu shots this year to enrolled Veterans of the VA health care system. Moreover, Walgreens has partnered with the American Pharmacists Association to develop continuing education and training programs for pharmacists.
Walgreens’ commitment to vaccine access extends beyond our borders. Thanks to the “Get a Shot. Give a Shot” campaign—a global partnership with the UN Foundation—Walgreens offers a vaccine to a child in need in developing countries for every vaccine it administers here at home. The campaign has helped provide more than 20 million polio and measles vaccines to people in developing countries.
AVAC thanks Lauren Linkenauger—and her pharmacy colleagues at Walgreens—who make a significant impact by protecting people from vaccine-preventable disease. Walgreens and AVAC value their relationship in developing strategies to improve adult vaccination rates and advance the immunization infrastructure.