Magazine article Drug Topics

New Vaccines, New Horizons Seen for Immunization

Magazine article Drug Topics

New Vaccines, New Horizons Seen for Immunization

Article excerpt

Pharmacists currently offering immunizations see substantial growth for that activity ahead. But they also foresee many barriers to reimbursement as well as to recognition from the public and the healthcare community.

"The opportunities that we see now are very interesting," noted Dennis D. Stanley, R.Ph., at the Pharmacy-Based Immunization Summit held in September in Arlington, Va. The summit was sponsored by the National Association of Chain Drug Stores Foundation, the American Pharmacists Association, and the Academy of Managed Care Pharmacy.

Most pharmacists administering vaccines started with influenza and pneumococcal immunization, said Stanley, who is the Wellness Center Manager at Ukrop's Supermarket Pharmacy in Richmond, Va. But now there are whole new areas of vaccination to be tackled, he noted. For example, with new vaccination recommendations for meningitis, TdaP (tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis), and human papilloma virus, there is a new focus on services to adolescents. And there is a new service potential for adults over age 60 in the recommendations for vaccination against herpes zoster.

Stanley said that with just those four vaccines, the need for services has increased significantly and there are many more vaccines in the pipeline, relatively close to being released.

What about the all-important factor of reimbursement for these services? Medicare compensates for administration at a fair rate, said Stanley, and if managed care follows suit across the country, "I think that it will benefit immunization rates."

Michael Margevicius, program manager at a subsidiary of Well-Point Inc., advised pharmacists at the conference that nothing gets managed care's attention better than a positive return on investment. "Do your homework and find out what penetration in your market managed care groups have," he said. "If you show how you can save money for that plan by having more patients go to the pharmacy versus alternate sites for these vaccines, then I can guarantee you will be invited to lunch."

Louis Hochheiser, M.D., medical director, clinical policy development, at Humana Inc., told pharmacists who want to approach their regional managed care representative or other payer about immunization: "We probably don't know much about it. In a sense you are coming in as an educator." Be ready with a complete package, he said, including protocols, the proof that the people doing the immunizations are trained, and a copy of the state law on pharmacy practice. …

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