Recruit pharmacists to push flu vaccine

"Fifty percent of at-risk patients are not receiving their flu vaccination and we believe community pharmacy can help reduce this number," says Peter Bainbridge. (Credit: Gary Lee/Flickr)

Pharmacists can play an important role in getting more at-risk patients, notably pregnant women and those with diabetes, vaccinated against flu, researchers say.

The National Health Service and World Health Organization (WHO) have set a target that 75 percent of at-risk patients receive a flu vaccination, however during the winter of 2011-12 only 50 percent did. People who are under 65 years of age are at risk because of other conditions such as chronic respiratory disease, chronic heart disease, diabetes, being immunocompromised, as well as pregnant women and frontline health and social care workers.


A new study highlights the integrated role community pharmacy can play, working alongside general practitioners (GPs), in reaching patients who are unlikely to get a flu vaccine at the doctor’s office.

“There is a recognized need to continue to drive uptake flu vaccinations for patients in at-risk groups but achieving the level required is challenging and requires innovative thinking and new approaches,” says Claire Anderson, professor from the School of Pharmacy at the University of Nottingham.

Published online in the open access journal BMC Health Services Research, the research analyzed data collected from a sample of Boots UK community pharmacies during 2012-2013. It reveals that despite being eligible for a free flu vaccination, some patients still preferred to pay for the service at their local pharmacy.

“Fifty percent of at-risk patients are not receiving their flu vaccination and we believe community pharmacy can help reduce this number,” says Peter Bainbridge, director of pharmacy at Boots UK.

“Patients tell us that a pharmacy is a convenient and accessible option for getting their flu vaccination. We are near to where they work and have opening hours that suit their busy lives.

“At-risk patients regularly visit our pharmacies to collect their prescription and to seek advice and support so our pharmacists are also well placed to remind them of the importance of immunization.”

Paying when they don’t have to

The study shows that of 89,011 private paying patients, 5,340 were eligible for a free flu vaccination but despite being told this by the pharmacist still decided to pay for the service.

During the winter of 2012-13 flu vaccinations were available in 586 participating Boots pharmacies in England at a cost of £12.99. Boots UK were also commissioned to deliver the service via patient group directions (PGDs) in 258 of these pharmacies.

PGDs are written instructions for the supply or administration of medicines to groups of patients who may not be individually identified before presentation for treatment. This means in stores with a PGD, patients can get a flu vaccination without having to get a prescription from their GP, thus enhancing the convenience of the service.

Source: University of Nottingham