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5 Facts You Need to Know about Pharmacist-administered Immunizations

Monday, November 13, 2017

Two students learning how to prep needles for vaccinationsSince December 2016, Ontario pharmacists have been able to administer vaccines for 13 vaccine-preventable diseases in addition to influenza. Most of these are vaccinations related to travel. With flu season well underway, pharmacies are accessible locations for flu shots. Despite these changes and this accessibility, some may have questions about being vaccinated by pharmacists.  Here are five facts about pharmacist-administrated immunizations in Ontario:

1. Pharmacists are trained in vaccine administration

Ontario pharmacists must complete a formal injection training program recognized by the Ontario College of Pharmacists to be authorized to inject patients. This program covers a wide variety of topics from understanding the immune system to proper storage and transport of vaccines. Pharmacists are taught to administer vaccines by various routes (for example, by needle or through the nose) and to respond to potential negative reactions to vaccination. To administer vaccines, pharmacists must also have current first aid and heart resuscitation certification.

Two students completing immunization training. One student administering a needle to another.

Waterloo School of Pharmacy students completing injection training in a second year lab class.

2. Pharmacies can be convenient locations to get common travel vaccinations

Since the December 2016 change, most Ontario community pharmacies stock ongoing supplies of frequently used vaccines such as hepatitis A and B. They can also efficiently order other less common vaccines, often with same-day or next-day delivery. The yellow fever vaccination requires pharmacies to receive a special designation on top of the pharmacist’s required immunization training. If you require the yellow fever vaccine, contact your pharmacy in advance to see if they can provide this vaccine or refer you to another pharmacy that can.

3. Pharmacists do not vaccinate very young children

In Ontario, pharmacists cannot vaccinate children under five years old.  Pharmacist-administered vaccines are not intended to replace routine childhood immunization programs and examinations.

4. Pharmacies are equipped to safely store vaccines and manage product recalls or shortages.

Vaccines are tricky products to manage. Many have unique storage requirements and are very sensitive to temperature. Pharmacies are held to the same storage requirements as other healthcare settings like doctor’s offices. In fact, pharmacists are very experienced with temperature-sensitive products, as many medications such as insulin have similar requirements.

For many years, pharmacies have ensured safe storage and transport of medications. Vaccines are no different. Similarly, pharmacies are already responsible for managing medication shortages and recalls and they apply the same detailed inventory management capability to vaccines.

Aaron Sousa training students on injections

5. Pharmacies are accessible locations for vaccination

Pharmacists are often recognized as some of the most accessible health care professionals in Ontario. The longer operating hours and ability to speak to a professional without an appointment make pharmacies convenient locations for vaccination.

The content of this article is adapted from Dr. Sherilyn Houle’s commentary article published in the Canadian Journal of Public Health. It reflects immunization information for Ontario as of November 2017.

Two students prepping needles for injection