FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
UPPER NYACK, NY (May 11, 2022) – A peer reviewed paper published in Journal of the American Pharmacists Association from the Global Healthy Living Foundation finds that pharmacists can play a critical role in increasing vaccine access for people who live in low-income communities, particularly seniors, and reduce health disparities. “Accessibility of adult immunizations in pharmacies compared to physician offices in low-income communities,” finds that in communities with a poverty rate of at least 30 percent, the number of pharmacies is 15 percent higher than the number of physician offices and that pharmacies offer significantly more hours for vaccination compared to physician offices.
“We believe that expanding the authority and ability of pharmacists to administer all FDA approved or authorized or CDC recommended vaccinations similar to their physician colleagues should be considered across state and federal programs,” said lead author Dr. Robert Popovian, Pharm.D., MS, Chief Science Policy Officer at the Global Healthy Living Foundation, Senior Health Policy Fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute and Visiting Health Policy Fellow at the Pioneer Institute. “During the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, pharmacists were the healthcare professionals in the community with direct in person access to patients as most other providers established virtual care. As we return to normalcy, pharmacists are well-positioned to continue providing immunizations at convenient times and locations in all communities across the country. This has bolstered vaccination rates for Covid-19 and other preventable diseases.”
With more than 80,000 retail and outpatient pharmacy locations, pharmacists are the most accessible healthcare professionals in the U.S. and a 2020 Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA) Open Network study found that for Medicare patients, the median number of visits to community pharmacies was significantly higher than encounters with primary care physicians. By December 2021, pharmacies were administering more than two-thirds of COVID-19 vaccines. As of April 2, 2022, pharmacies had administered nearly 10 million more flu vaccines than physician offices during the current flu season.
Study: Mapping Out Pharmacies Suggests Increased Access Opportunities
A U.S. Census-designated community was considered low-income (n=1,329, 4 percent) if the share of families living at or below the federal poverty threshold exceeded 30 percent. The national provider database maintained by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) was used to measure the number of physician practices in each community. The number of pharmacy locations was based on the store location database provided by the National Association of Chain Drug Stores (NACDS) through National Council for Prescription Drug Programs, Inc. data Q® Pharmacy Database (October/2021). The researchers also calculated the number of hours physicians and pharmacists, respectively, worked to better understand availability of immunizations in the community.
Overall, within the low-income communities analyzed, pharmacies offered nearly double the number of hours for immunizations: 128,860 hours at 1,894 pharmacies compared with 65,840 hours at 1,646 physician offices. Compared to the physician offices that seek immunization reimbursement through Medicare Part D, the gap expands from 15 percent more pharmacy locations to 203 percent more pharmacy locations. Adjusting the hours of operation and the physician offices that seek immunization reimbursement through Medicare Part D, the gap expands further to 415 percent.
“Pharmacists are highly trained medical professionals and these results demonstrate that if we further enable pharmacists to offer all vaccinations, we would meaningfully improve access for lower-income families,” said Dr. Juan Maya, MD, Rheumatology Center of Palm Beach and volunteer rheumatologist with the John Whelton Arthur Virshup CreakyJoints South Florida Arthritis Clinic,* which provides regular and free rheumatology care to local patients who could not afford it otherwise.
Dr. Maya continued, “Notably, pharmacies can help improve accessibility for seniors with Medicare Part D coverage, a particularly vulnerable group. Keeping our patients up-to-date on their vaccinations is vital to preventing long-term consequences from preventable diseases.”
Dr. Popovian echoed Dr. Maya, “Too many people, especially those in low-income communities and seniors, rely on pharmacists for vaccines. Unfortunately, when the public health emergency designation is lifted, this level of access will be jeopardized.”
To review “Accessibility of adult immunizations in pharmacies compared to physician offices in low-income communities,” in its entirety, please visit https://www.japha.org/article/S1544-3191(22)00094-2/fulltext .
The study was supported by American Disease Prevention Coalition.
*CreakyJoints is the Global Healthy Living Foundation’s (GHLF) international, digital arthritis community. GHLF operates and funds the free clinic.
About the American Disease Prevention Coalition
The American Disease Prevention Coalition advocates for state legislation that enables pharmacists to administer adult immunizations recommended by the CDC within Recommended Immunization Schedules; immunizations or vaccines recommended in the CDC’s Health Information for International Travel; and those approved or authorized by the United States FDA for Use in the United States—under pharmacist’s own authority, similar to how other vaccine providers initiate and administer vaccines. Find us at www.vaccinesshouldntwait.org, Twitter: @ADPCVaccines, and LinkedIn: @American Disease Prevention Coalition.
About Global Healthy Living Foundation
The Global Healthy Living Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization whose mission is to improve the quality of life for people with chronic illnesses (such as arthritis, osteoporosis, migraine, psoriasis, inflammatory bowel disease, and cardiovascular disease) by advocating for improved access to health care at the community, state, and federal levels, and amplifying education and awareness efforts within its social media framework. GHLF is also a staunch advocate for vaccines. The Global Healthy Living Foundation is the parent organization of CreakyJoints®, the international digital community for millions of arthritis patients and caregivers worldwide who seek education, support, activism, and patient-centered research in English and Spanish through our ArthritisPower® (ArthritisPower.org) Research Registry. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, GHLF started a Patient Support Program, informed by a patient council made up of people living with a wide range of chronic illnesses, that now serves more than 46,000 subscribers. Via CreakyJoints, GHLF also hosts PainSpot (PainSpot.org), a digital risk-assessment tool for musculoskeletal conditions and injuries, eRheum (eRheum.org), for telehealth and virtual-care support, and a constantly refreshed library of podcasts via the GHLF Podcast Network. Visit ghlf.org for more information.
Find us online:
Global Healthy Living Foundation: ghlf.org
CreakyJoints Canada: CreakyJoints.ca
CreakyJoints Español: CreakyJoints.org.es
CreakyJoints Australia: CreakyJoints.org.au
Facebook: facebook.com/CreakyJoints & facebook.com/GlobalHealthyLivingFoundation