COVID-19: Experts Harp on Vaccination, Insist on Pharmacists Inclusion

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…As Oyo PSN hold advocacy meeting among healthcare workers

Pharm. (Chief) Tunji Amole, chairman, BOF, Oyo State, presenting an award Ppaque to the keynote speaker, Pharm. Kunle Tometi, CEO and pharmacist-in-charge of Total Pharmacy, Dallas, Texas, USA, while Pharm. Oguntoye Adegboyega, chairman, PSN, Oyo State watch in admiration at the PSN Advocacy Meeting held in Ibadan, recently.

Piqued by the rate of vaccine hesitancy among Nigerians, and the nonchalant attitude of people in observing the COVID-19 safety protocols, experts have said this will not only threaten COVID-19 response but prevent Nigeria from achieving herd immunity.

Speaking at the advocacy meeting organised by the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN) Oyo State Chapter, at the Western Hall, House of Assembly Complex, Oyo State Secretariat, Ibadan, Pharm. Kunle Tometi, CEO and pharmacist-in-charge of Total Pharmacy, Dallas, Texas, USA, defined ‘herd immunity’ as a form of indirect protection from infectious disease that can occur with some diseases when a sufficient percentage of a population has become immune to an infection, thereby reducing the likelihood of infection for individuals who lack immunity.

According to him, If about 70 percent of Nigerians are immune or protected from COVID-19, or any kind of infection, chances of the other unimmuned population getting infected would be very low, saying it is therefore important that Nigerians should develop a new attitude towards receiving the vaccine as at when due.

Tometi, a Fellow of the Nigerian Association of Pharmacists and Pharmaceutical Scientists in the Americas (NAPPSA), who was the Keynote speaker at the event said if Nigeria could reach herd immunity level, it would mean the virus can no longer spread rapidly as most of the population will either be fully vaccinated or have become immune through infections.

Pharm. Oguntoye Adegboyega, chairman, PSN, Oyo State (4th from left ), with other dignitaries at the Oyo State PSN Advocacy Meeting held at the Oyo Secretariat, Ibadan, recently.

Speaking on the theme, “Attaining herd immunity through preventive services in healthcare delivery”, Tometi defined preventive healthcare as healthcare that prevents disease, injury, or illness, rather than treating a condition that has already become catastrophic or acute, saying the goal of preventive care is to help people stay healthy.

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He therfore calls for the inclusion of pharmacists, especially the community pharmacies as location of adult vaccination, saying barriers to improving adult vaccination rates ranges from a lack of public awareness regarding the need for vaccines and the ongoing threat of vaccine-preventable diseases to challenges regarding financial/reimbursement systems for providers, adding that pharmacists are ideally positioned to overcome some of the barriers.

“Pharmacists are very valuable as more pharmacies than ever are offering vaccination services, increasing the numbers of providers and access points for patients. More than 90 percent of Americans live within 5 miles of a pharmacy, and as of 2011 to 2012, influenza season, more than 20 percent of adults reported receiving a flu vaccine from a drug store or supermarket pharmacy. Not only are pharmacies plentiful in all types of urban and suburban areas, but they also offer the convenience of extended hours, including holidays, and often for a lower cost, “ he said.

He continued, “In preparation for a successful COVID-19 vaccine, government must consider various elements in their vaccination policy. This includes the estimated herd immunity threshold, methods of vaccine delivery, vaccine clinic locations, staffing arrangements and training, and strategies for vaccine prioritization. Pharmacists can and should play a key role in the rollout of mass (COVID-19) vaccinations.

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While speaking at the programme, Dr Samuel Adekola, national chairman, Association of Community Pharmacists of Nigeria (ACPN), said to improve the rate of vaccination among adults, communities need to provide more education about and access points for vaccination services, adding that patients need to know why vaccination is important.

“This challenge has created widespread interest in the role pharmacists can play in creating and implementing measures aimed at improving the administration of recommended vaccines and, ultimately, stopping vaccine-preventable diseases. Community pharmacies with big space should also be considered as appropriate locations for COVID-19 vaccination”.

Adekola also noted that pharmacists are in a unique and highly beneficial position in helping public health efforts to close the vaccination gap for adults, adding that pharmacists are easily accessible healthcare providers whose training and certification prepare them for fully participating in all aspects of community vaccination delivery.

Speaking earlier, the chairman, PSN, Oyo State, Pharm. Oguntoye Adegboyega said the purpose of the programme was for advocacy, as well as to enlighten the public on the role pharmacists play in society, especially the under-utilization of the pharmacists by the government at this period of COVID-19 pandemic.

“Pharmacists should be placed in rightful position when it comes to healthcare delivery. Just like we have in Oyo State, we discovered that there are still some sectors, agencies, and others where the role of pharmacists is still missing, our members are not there and our services are not there. Pharmacists play a great role in the healthcare sector and are experts on drug and drug-related matters”.

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He added, “Pharmacists are one of the most underutilized healthcare professionals in Nigeria. The deficiency of pharmacists in health agencies, local government health services, and community immunization programmes in this age suggests retrogression. The exclusion of pharmacists in the spaces where they can advance healthcare delivery in the country is only counterproductive, “he said.

The highpoint of the event was the presentation of award plaques to some of the dignitaries which include, Pharm. Chief Tunji Amole, chairman, BOF, Oyo State; Pharm. Leke Ogunsola, chairman, Primary Healthcare Board, Osun State; Mrs Olubamiwo Adeosun, secretary to Oyo State Government; Pharm. Abiodun Ajibade, former chairman, PSN, Oyo State; Rt. Hon. Edward Adebo Ogundoyin, speaker, Oyo State House of Assembly, rep by Hon. Riliwan Gbadamosi, chairman, House Committee on Health, among others.

Pharm.(Chief) Tunji Amole, chairman, BOF, Oyo State, presenting an award paque to the keynote speaker, Pharm. Kunle Tometi, CEO and pharmacist-in-charge of Total Pharmacy, Dallas, Texas, USA, while Pharm. Oguntoye Adegboyega, chairman, PSN, Oyo State watch in admiration at the PSN Advocacy Meeting held in Ibadan, recently.

Pharm. Oguntoye Adegboyega, chairman, PSN, Oyo State (Middle), with other dignitaries at the Oyo State PSN Advocacy Meeting held at the Oyo Secretariat, Ibadan, recently.

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