During the commemoration of National Immunization Awareness Month in August, NACDS will be promoting a host of story lines of importance to public health and to pharmacy’s role as the face of neighborhood healthcare.

The past decade has seen tremendous advancement for pharmacy’s role in protecting Americans with vaccinations. To provide the background, it was not until 2009 that all 50 states allowed pharmacists to give the flu shot. As of 2015, each state allows pharmacists to give at least three vaccines. Since that milestone, progress has continued. So far in 2018, six states – Florida, Iowa, Kentucky, Missouri, New York and West Virginia – have expanded pharmacists’ authority. NACDS is striving to secure authority at the state level for community pharmacists to administer all vaccinations recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), to enhance the health of individuals and communities across the nation.

Much of this progress has been inspired by pharmacy’s recognized performance during times of need, including the 2009 H1N1 pandemic. In fact, a study by the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security and funded by NACDS calls for further strategic changes to government policy that would assure preparedness in future emergencies, and beyond.

We are seeing that pharmacists’ increased authorization to give flu shots is associated with boosted vaccination rates. An article published in Clinical Therapeutics describes a study – by Avalere and NACDS researchers – that found “overall, as states moved to allow pharmacists to administer influenza immunizations, the odds that an adult resident received an influenza immunization rose, with the effect increasing over time.”

There are many opportunities to enhance access to needed vaccinations. Last month, NACDS partnered with the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American Pharmacists Association to create a tip sheet for obstetricians and gynecologists to implement an immunization referral system with other healthcare stakeholders, including pharmacies.

This month, we are continuing our partnership with the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases (NFID) to provide emerging vaccination information and education to pharmacists. In fact, NFID and NACDS are hosting a series of three webinars in August on the latest guidance from ACIP on current topics. We also are supporting NFID’s new immunization awareness campaign to address HPV – or human papillomavirus –the most common sexually transmitted infection.

Looking forward to September, NACDS and its three CDC Immunization Grant sub-awardees will detail final demonstration project results and findings that relate to ways to effectively integrate pharmacy-based immunization into practice more broadly. The demonstration projects were supported by Grant Federal Award Identification Number, IH23IP000985, for $800,000 funded by the CDC. NACDS contributed an additional $300,000 to execute the demonstration projects. A total of $1.1 million was used to support this CDC project work, with 73 percent from the CDC and 27 percent from NACDS. The demonstration projects examined innovative healthcare collaborations designed to demonstrate increased rates of pharmacy-based immunizations. The grant also focuses on improving pandemic planning among pharmacies.

In addition to pharmacy’s daily work to increase vaccination rates, and to foster pandemic preparedness, pharmacies also are focusing on access to vaccinations as part of their philanthropic endeavors. Among its conclusions, the NACDS 2017 Chain Pharmacy Community Engagement Report found that access to affordable vaccines and medicines was among the top three areas of focus for NACDS chain members last year. Overall, the report found that NACDS chain members reported total annual giving of $650 million, and 1.5 million total volunteer hours.

Steven Anderson is the president and chief executive officer of NACDS.