Uwaga, Baale, Tometi, Others Harp on Vaccination, Pharmacists Inclusion

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– As ACPN, Mercer University train 200 community pharmacists as vaccinators

Health experts have tasked the Federal Government and health practitioners on the need to increase the number of trained and certified vaccinators in the country, noting that allowing community pharmacists to practise as primary healthcare providers and vaccinators will help to meet the growing needs of patients, especially during the present COVID-19 pandemic.

The call was made at the just concluded Annual National Conference of the Association of Community Pharmacists of Nigeria (ACPN), in Abeokuta, where ACPN, in collaboration with a team of accomplished practitioners from the Mercer University, United States, who trained and certified 200 pharmacists on pharmacy-based vaccination delivery.

The vaccination training, which was the brainchild of the Transgenerational Pharmacies Development Foundation (TGPDF), was a six-month online training programme for pharmacists on Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) and Basic Life Support (BLS), after which they were presented certificates on completion.

Pharm. Kunle Tometi taking one of the classes

Fielding questions from journalists at the programme, which was the maiden edition, the President of TGPDF, Prof. Lere Baale, said the Foundation was created and populated with a group of professional thinkers to help accelerate the transformation of community pharmacy practice, to meet the growing needs of stakeholders in the 21st century.

According to him, the programme was being driven by the Foundation to maximise the potentials of community pharmacists.

He said:  “This training will help to reduce hesitancy, as well as encourage more people to embrace vaccination. Part of the reason for this training was for advocacy and for them to become certified immunisers.

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“We have a training and capacity building committee which has, in its fold, an array of professionals. Part of its responsibilities is planning and implementing a training programme for community pharmacists with regards to the delivery of primary healthcare services in the community, ensuring that pharmacists are not only trained but licensed to provide primary healthcare services. Thus, conferring legal authority to the pharmacists to provide these services, as well as working on long-term basis with training institutions, like universities, to ensure training on PHC services, which is part of the curriculum.”

One of the facilitators and trainers, Pharm. Kunle Tometi, a clinical pharmacist and  CEO, Total Pharmacy, Dallas, Texas, USA, defined Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR)  as an emergency procedure that combines chest compressions often with artificial ventilation in an effort to manually preserve brain function, until further measures are taken to restore spontaneous blood circulation and breathing in a person who is in cardiac arrest.

He added that the training, which was meant to get the participants certified to give the vaccination, contained seven modules, which included: Background information on vaccine; vaccine consideration, patient screening education, and consent; storage handling, delivery and waste management of vaccine; review of vaccination equipment and supplies; vaccine administration, anaphylaxis and post-vaccination; recording and monitoring vaccination; as well as competency skill check via exit examination.

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“What we have done here today is to come and certify pharmacists on vaccination as well as immunisation techniques. What we know is that pharmacists are people with a high level of knowledge and training, as they are everywhere in the country. So we thought if we could train pharmacists to become vaccinators, it will help the country. So we have come to train them, share experiences and help them understand the importance of Pharmacy in primary healthcare,” he said.

Tometi also called for the inclusion of community pharmacies as sites of adult vaccination, saying barriers to improving adult vaccination rates range from a lack of public awareness regarding the need for vaccines and the threat of vaccine-preventable diseases, to challenges regarding financial or reimbursement systems for providers, adding that pharmacists are ideally positioned to overcome some of these obstacles.

In his words: “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 per cent of Americans live within five miles of a pharmacy and as of the 2011 to 2012 influenza season, more than 20 per cent of adults reported receiving a flu vaccine from a drug store or supermarket pharmacy.

“As we have certified these vaccinators today, what we need next is advocacy, as pharmacists are still not recognised in Nigeria to vaccinate. So we are going to call on the PSN through the ACPN to continue to work with the government along with the PCN and the Primary Healthcare Board to create legislation in the senate so that pharmacists can have the right to vaccinate people. We have about 25000 pharmacists in Nigeria now. If we can get this right, it will further help the healthcare sector and it will benefit Nigeria.”

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Speaking earlier, Dr U.N.O. Uwaga, former president, PSN, and chairman, Board of Trustees, ACPN, called for official legislation to ensure pharmacists are recognised as vaccinators, saying the government should make good use of the certified professionals for preventive healthcare.

According to Uwaga, “There is no gainsaying it. With the vaccination training that we have witnessed today, there is no going back. It means, in terms of preventive healthcare, pharmacists will begin to play an important role in terms of vaccination. Although we are already playing this role, we shall begin to do more.

“In other countries, we have seen where the government uses community pharmacies as preventive healthcare vaccination centres and that is reaching out to the masses at the community. It means that with the spread of the community pharmacies, the people can be reached.”

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