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Involving pharmacy students in vaccination efforts

By Magdi Awad posted 02-13-2023 12:14


By Mohenad Rasoul, PharmD, PGY-1 Pharmacy resident, AxessPointe Community Health Centers/ Northeast Ohio Medical University, and 

Magdi Awad, PharmD, MSA, Director of Pharmacy, AxessPointe Community Health Centers/Associate Professor of Pharmacy Practice, Northeast Ohio Medical University

Upwards of 224 million people in the United States have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Pharmacy students, along with their respective colleges, have played a significant role in the recruitment, facilitation, and administration of COVID-19 vaccines over the past few years. These students have significantly lowered the burden on hospitals, outpatient clinics, and retail pharmacies to administer COVID-19 vaccines in an urgent manner. In an ASHP survey of the deans of schools and colleges of pharmacy, all 42 respondents stated that they have been asked to provide student pharmacists as volunteers for COVID-19 immunization efforts. Students are being utilized to assist local hospital systems (55% of deans reported), community/retail pharmacies (14%), and local health departments, including support for rural vaccination efforts (17%), long-term care facilities (5%), and campus vaccination efforts (29%)1.

Despite pharmacy students being trained on vaccination within the first or second year of their curriculums, it is important that students helping with these vaccine clinics are thoroughly onboarded and evaluated for correct vaccination technique, correct aseptic methods used to draw up vaccines, and accurate counseling points, such as common vaccine misconceptions and side effects. First, the site should prepare a training manual describing the available vaccines, administration and storage instructions, documentation and billing process, vaccination workflow, and management of adverse reactions. After reviewing the training manual, the student should be allowed to ask clarifying questions and then practice under the preceptor supervision. It will be useful to develop a competency checklist to be used by the preceptor while evaluating the student’s performance. The checklist should, at minimum, include preparing the vaccine for administration, administration technique, safety precautions, communication and interaction with the patient, and documentation. The site and the preceptors should determine the number of observed vaccines before allowing the student to independently administer vaccines. Signing and saving the competency checklist might be a good idea.

In addition to confirming competency at the vaccination site, the pharmacy school might need to track its involvement in community events and keep participation records. Luli and colleagues described how the students and faculty at University of California, San Diego Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences (SSPPS) streamlined an approach to maximize student involvement in assisting with vaccination efforts in their community2. An existing protocol for approving student organized events was adjusted to fit additional needs for COVID-19 vaccination efforts by SSPPS students and faculty. For each event, students completed a standardized form containing event details including location, date, time, pharmacist preceptors, and duties.

Pharmacy students have been crucial in the effort to vaccinate against COVID-19. Colleges of pharmacy, large health-systems, community pharmacies, and outpatient treatment centers, now more than ever, understand the value of leveraging pharmacy students for the betterment of healthcare. Onboarding and evaluating the students will reduce errors and improve the student’s learning experience.

  1. Gregory N. Pharmacy students play crucial role in COVID-19 mass vaccinations. Am J Health Syst Pharm. 2021 Mar 31;78(8):662-664. doi: 10.1093/ajhp/zxab061. PMID: 33684936; PMCID: PMC7989633.
  2. 2. Luli AJ, Morello CM, Lorentz SM, Bounthavong M, Brandl K, Hart LA. A Systematic Approach to Providing COVID-19 Vaccinations in the Community by Student Pharmacists. Pharmacy (Basel). 2022 Jul 30;10(4):93. doi: 10.3390/pharmacy10040093. PMID: 36005933; PMCID: PMC9413073.