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7/10/2003
Press Release

ASHP Issues Guidelines on Pharmacist's Role in Immunization

Pharmacists in hospitals and health systems can help prevent some of the 90,000 deaths that occur each year due to vaccine-preventable infections such as influenza, pneumococcal disease, and hepatitis B, according to new guidelines published in the July 1 issue of the American Journal of Health-System Pharmacy (AJHP).

Nearly 25 percent of U.S. children have not completed their primary vaccination series by the age of two, and most Americans are inadequately vaccinated against health threats such as pneumonia, tetanus, and diptheria, according to the federal Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion.

“Significant numbers of at-risk patients are within our grasp, yet fail to receive potentially life-saving immunizations,” Mark Woods, Pharm.D., FASHP, writes in AJHP. Too often, “we let the ‘immunization moment’ slip away.”

“ASHP Guidelines on the Pharmacist’s Role in Immunization” stresses that one member of the health care team should be responsible for monitoring and following up on patients’ vaccination needs. Because of their expertise in promoting public health via safe and effective medication use, pharmacists are ideally suited to perform these tasks.

ASHP’s guidance document provides an overview of the important role pharmacists can have in improving consumer health by boosting national immunization rates, detailing the types of legal authority, special training, and formulary management skills they should have as well as:

• How to structure a pharmacist-provided vaccination program,
• The types of screening procedures pharmacists can use to best identify patients in need of vaccination, and
• The steps required for proper reimbursement under Medicare.

The guideline also offers advice on patient counseling, how to develop institutional vaccination procedures and protocols, and the role of the pharmacist in educating patients on disease prevention and health maintenance.

 “The issuance of this new document will help pharmacists take an active role in ensuring Americans are protected against some of the more insidious public health threats of our time,” said ASHP CEO and Executive Vice President Henri R. Manasse, Jr., Ph.D., Sc.D.  “It is a vitally important reference for clinicians who treat patients in hospitals and other components of health systems.”

For a copy of the guideline, which will also be published in the 2003-2004 edition of ASHP’s Best Practices for Health-System Pharmacy, go to www.ashp.org and click on the link for the July 1 issue of AJHP.

ASHP is the 30,000-member national professional association that represents pharmacists who practice in hospitals, health maintenance organizations, ambulatory care clinics, long-term care facilities, home care, and other components of health care systems. ASHP, which has a long history of medication error prevention efforts, believes that the mission of pharmacists is to help people make the best use of medicines.  Assisting pharmacists in fulfilling this mission is ASHP’s primary objective.  The Society has extensive publishing and educational programs designed to help members improve their professional practice, and it is the national accrediting organization for pharmacy residency and pharmacy technician training programs.  For more information, visit ASHP’s Web site, www.ashp.org, or its consumer Web site, www.safemedication.com.