This week’s announcement that the Food and Drug Administration has expanded the emergency use authorization (EUA) for the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine in adolescents 12 to 15 years of age, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s subsequent recommendation, is another encouraging step in our efforts to bring an end to this devastating pandemic. There are more opportunities than ever for pharmacists to lead vaccination programs, build community trust, and direct public education campaigns to protect our communities from COVID-19. Today, I want to share some important updates on the continued work that ASHP and our members are doing in support of increasing vaccine confidence.
Information related to the COVID-19 vaccines changes almost daily, emphasizing the importance of being in this learning community together. With this week’s decision to expand the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine EUA, vaccinations in adolescents are well underway. To ensure that you have the latest information, we have updated our patient information in English and Spanish for the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine and monographs that address this age group, which are now available on the ASHP COVID-19 Vaccines webpage. This information adds to our extensive COVID-19 resources and tools supporting pharmacy professionals and the patients they serve.
Pharmacy teams are trusted healthcare voices within the community and play an essential role in promoting vaccine confidence. ASHP is currently partnering with the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) on the We Can Do This Campaign, a public education effort to increase vaccine confidence. As part of this collaboration, ASHP members will participate in a series of media tours to help enhance vaccine confidence in key geographic areas. The first tour will take place at the end of May and include radio and television interviews with local ASHP members, with the intent to demonstrate credible information-sharing within these communities.
A number of ASHP members have also been featured in a nationwide communications initiative to educate the American public and build vaccine confidence. The COVID-19 Vaccine Education Initiative, supported by the Ad Council and the COVID Collaborative, features videos from ASHP President Tom Johnson and other ASHP members designed to reach a variety of audiences. Our members recorded themselves explaining a number of topics related to the COVID-19 vaccines, including herd immunity, vaccine research, side effects, and an explanation of how vaccines work. I encourage you to watch and share the videos of our pharmacy colleagues.
We have also engaged on a federal level to demonstrate the depth and breadth of pharmacist impact on patient and public health in their communities. Last week, ASHP member Vivian Bradley Johnson, senior vice president of clinical services, Parkland Health and Hospital System, and I had the opportunity to meet with White House officials. ASHP Chief Operating Officer Kasey Thompson and members of ASHP’s Government Relations team also participated in this highly productive meeting in which we emphasized pharmacists’ vital role in COVID-19 vaccination and vaccine confidence efforts, mitigating health disparities, and getting ahead of future health threats. This was a remarkable opportunity to showcase our members’ work, and we look forward to continuing to work with the White House to promote the critical importance of advanced roles for pharmacy professionals in improving public health.
As I mentioned last month, I am serving as a co-chair of the GTMRx National Task Force: Building Vaccine Confidence in the Medical Neighborhood, along with Georges Benjamin, MD, executive director, American Public Health Association, and Susan Dentzer, senior policy fellow, Robert J. Margolis Center for Health Policy, Duke University. Dr. Benjamin is known across our nation as a highly influential physician leader and national public health expert and previously served as the secretary of the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. Ms. Dentzer is a national leader in healthcare policy, previously serving as the president and chief executive officer of the Network for Excellence in Health Innovation, senior policy adviser for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and as former editor-in-chief of Health Affairs and on-air health correspondent for the PBS NewsHour.
Our task force is designed to create partnerships with trusted members of the “health neighborhood” — pharmacists, physicians, nurses, and other stakeholders such as local public health entities, civic organizations, and insurers — and equip them with tools and messages to promote vaccine confidence. We are pleased to report that our work with Dr. Benjamin, Ms. Dentzer, along with the full task force of distinguished interprofessional experts, including ASHP Immediate Past President Kathy Pawlicki, is moving along quickly and we expect to have recommendations from the task force ready by early summer.
Finally, I would like to remind you about SafeMedication.com, ASHP’s consumer website dedicated to providing patients with trusted health information from pharmacists. With all content written and reviewed by pharmacists, the site has more than 1 million visitors per year, and is an extremely valuable patient education resource. We recently created a special COVID-19 section with information aimed at bolstering vaccine confidence among consumers and dispelling myths about vaccines. The site also includes tips for taking or giving medications and answers common medication safety questions. Be sure to follow SafeMedication.com on Instagram and Facebook for new content and exciting updates.
As always, thank you for all that you do for your patients and our profession.