Pharmacists will play key role in vaccinating public against COVID-19

Some people may be concerned about being immunized. Pharmacists can help answer questions and educate about the importance of vaccines and vaccine safety.

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Flu season is now upon us and, in the midst of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Illinoisans are rightfully concerned. After all, well over 300,000 residents in our state have already contracted coronavirus — but what does COVID-19 mean for this year’s flu season?

While it’s nearly impossible to predict how the pandemic will affect this year’s flu, and vice versa, this much we do know: This flu season, local pharmacists — and the services they provide — will be more important than ever before.  

During public health emergencies, pharmacists provide crucial service to the community. Often the most accessible health care provider in the region, pharmacies are ideally located to supply care to those in need. They serve as the first line of defense, encouraging patients to take proactive measures to protect their health. But more than anything else, pharmacists work to immunize the public against harmful contagions.  

While pharmacists have long worked to inoculate the public against the seasonal flu, they’ve just recently gained the authority to tackle the coronavirus. In September, the United States Department of Health and Human Services authorized all state-licensed pharmacists to administer vaccines for COVID-19 when they become available. Once a safe and effective vaccine is developed, pharmacies will have the ability to distribute it to their local communities. And thanks to the tremendous efforts of the pharmaceutical industry, such a vaccine isn’t far from completion. 

The global health care community has more than 70 potential coronavirus vaccines in the research pipeline. Bio-pharmaceutical companies are working around the clock to find, develop, test and manufacture a solution to the COVID-19 pandemic in record time. But despite their brisk pace, the pharmaceutical industry isn’t cutting corners. Whether they are engaging in numerous rounds of clinical trials or adhering strictly to the FDA and CDC’s regulatory guidelines, the scientists developing the coronavirus vaccine are going above and beyond to ensure that their product meets the highest ethical standards.

The pharmaceutical industry and health care providers are committed to individual safety above all else. And that is essential because, when it comes to vaccines, trust is everything. Unfortunately, some people may be concerned about being immunized. Pharmacists can help answer questions and educate about the importance of vaccines and vaccine safety. By having an open conversation on the vaccine’s various safety precautions, these fears can be assuaged. And on this front, pharmacists again hold the key.

Americans trust their local pharmacists. A vaccine is essential for defeating COVID-19 and restarting our communities. It will be up to our local pharmacists to make sure it does just that. 

Garth Reynolds is executive director of the Illinois Pharmacists Association

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