More Canadians could be vaccinated for flu if pharmacists in all provinces were permitted to immunize, a recently isued Shoppers Drug Mart report concludes.


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Greater access to Rx immunization services sought

January 6th, 2014

TORONTO – More Canadians could be vaccinated for flu if pharmacists in all provinces were permitted to immunize, a recently isued Shoppers Drug Mart report concludes.

The study, “The Sustainable Solutions Report: A Focus on Immunizations,” indicates that enabling pharmacists to administer flu vaccines would raise immunization rates nationwide by an estimated 1% to 3%.

Such action also would pay dividends by not having to provide and pay for acute care to as many ill people. The estimated savings in Newfoundland and Labrador alone could approach $1.1 million, the report says.

Only pharmacists in five of Canada’s 13 provinces and territories — British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia — can administer flu vaccinations.
The report also recommends that pharmacists across Canada be given authority to administer other common vaccines. Currently, only pharmacists in British Columbia, Alberta and New Brunswick are permitted to administer a range of injections such as seasonal flu, hepatitis A or B, varicella, herpes zoster, human papillomavirus (HPV), tetanus, pneumococcal and diphtheria. Pharmacists in Ontario and Nova Scotia can vaccinate for flu only.

“Pharmacists are trusted health care professionals that are easy to access, making them a much more convenient choice for many Canadians,” asserted Domenic Pilla, president and chief executive officer of SDM. “Canadians in Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Quebec, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nunavut, Yukon and the Northwest Territories deserve access to this same type of preventative care as those in the rest of the country.”

The report calls for deeper involvement by Canada’s broader pharmacy community in development of an electronic communications infrastructure that would allow doctors, pharmacists and public health professionals to keep each other updated on patients’ immunization status.

Expanding pharmacists’ scope of practice, according to the report, would provide other benefits, including reducing physician workload and wait times. The average family doctor wait time is 1.35 days for urgent care and more than three weeks for non-urgent care. Pharmacists can play a key role in relieving pressure on family physicians, helping to free up time for patients with more complex care needs, the report notes.

Greater access to immunizations via pharmacies could also raise workplace productivity. The report says that the average flu season causes an estimated loss of 1.5 million workdays in Canada, resulting in health care costs and lost productivity equaling $1 billion.

The report has been endorsed by the associations representing pharmacists in Ontario, Newfoundland and Labrador, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island, as well as by the Canadian Pharmacists Association (CPhA).

“We know when pharmacists offer immunization services more people get vaccinated. It’s already happening with great success in many provinces,” CPhA CEO Perry Eisenschmid said in a statement. “However, to really make an impact, pharmacists in all provinces should be granted the authority to administer common vaccinations like influenza and tetanus, but we need provincial governments’ help to make it happen.”

In a recent CPhA study, 48% of Canadians said they would likely choose to get their flu shot at a pharmacy if the service was available in their province. And a recent survey of doctors revealed that 61% believed pharmacists in all provinces should be given the authority to vaccinate for flu. Convenience was cited by both groups as the chief benefit to seeing a pharmacist for vaccinations.

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