Pharmacists in Vaccination Services: A Middle Eastern Perspective

By Danélia Botes

January 23, 2024

The Power of Vaccination

Vaccination has been instrumental in eradicating numerous vaccine-preventable diseases and reducing their incidence globally. The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that 2 to 3 million lives are saved annually through vaccination. However, the effectiveness of vaccination services, from vaccine distribution to education and administration, is crucial for individual and community protection against vaccine-preventable diseases.

The Changing Role of Pharmacists

Traditionally, physicians or nurses in primary care clinics or hospitals have provided most vaccination services, with pharmacists’ role limited to vaccine distribution. However, this is changing. The American Pharmacist Association (APhA) has adopted a policy in 1996 to expand pharmacist involvement in vaccination programs. Pharmacists can now serve as advocates, increase vaccine accessibility, and even administer vaccines after completing the required training and obtaining legal permission.

Pharmacists and Immunisation Coverage

Expanding the role of pharmacists in vaccination services can positively influence immunisation coverage. For instance, during the H1N1 pandemic in 2009, community pharmacies served as “points of dispensing” to deliver the vaccine to the public. Many patients preferred receiving the H1N1 vaccine from pharmacists in the pharmacy setting, considering it a convenient place for immunisation. In the United States and some European countries, pharmacists have also been involved in COVID-19 vaccination services.

 

Global Perspectives on Pharmacists in Vaccination Services

Pharmacists’ involvement in vaccination services is fairly robust in certain parts of the world. For instance, in the United States and several European countries, pharmacists have a long-standing history of involvement in vaccine distribution and administration. In countries like Argentina, Australia, Canada, the Philippines, Portugal and South Africa, pharmacists are legally authorised to administer vaccines. In nations like China, Malaysia and Russia, pharmacists mostly advocate for vaccines. Pharmacists are not currently involved in immunisation services in countries like the Ukraine and Paraguay.

Pharmacists in Vaccination Services: Middle Eastern Perspective

In the Middle East, evidence regarding the pharmacist’s role in vaccination services is limited. However, recent studies have highlighted the expanding role of pharmacists in these countries. Traditionally, pharmacists in Middle Eastern countries were involved in vaccine storage, distribution, and advocacy. Recently, their role has expanded to include vaccine facilitation and administration.

 

The Path Ahead

Integrating community pharmacies as immunisation settings can enhance public immunisation acceptance in Middle Eastern countries. The facilitation of vaccine delivery in community pharmacies may alleviate distance-related barriers for some individuals in accessing vaccines. Moreover, the inclusion of pharmacists as vaccine administrators in vaccination programs can have a positive impact on vaccination coverage across the entire population in the region.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, the role of pharmacists in vaccination services is expanding across countries in the Middle East. Most countries in the region are now involving pharmacists more actively in the delivery of vaccinations, not only facilitating but also administering vaccines. This involvement aims to enhance public health by promoting and improving immunisation coverage across the Middle East. Future studies on pharmacist-led vaccination services in these countries are necessary to assess the value of pharmacists’ expanded practices in this area.

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