A Shot in the Arm for Vaccination Services
As COVID-19 vaccines get rolling, an accreditation organization has launched a new immunization certification program for pharmacies, but the pandemic isn’t the only reason.
- By David Kopf
- Apr 01, 2021
Photo © DragonImages/depositphotos.com
Vaccinations for COVID-19 are
rolling out nationwide and
chances are your pharmacy
is seeing an uptick in interest
from your customers. Fortunately,
there’s a new service to help DME pharmacies
meet this need.
In response to the growing market
demand for pharmacies to provide immunizations,
organization The Compliance Team
Inc. (TCT; thecomplianceteam.org) has
unveiled a new certification service: the
Exemplary Provider Immunization Certification
program, Including COVID-19. The certification covers both and adult
and pediatric immunizations and puts an
emphasis on COVID-19 vaccinations.
TCT’s Immunizations Certification,
Including COVID-19 supports CDC’s
COVID-19 requirements for both pharmacy
network administrators as well as
independent pharmacies. Certification
reassures pharmacies’ patients, payers,
and employees that their facilities and
patient safety and quality standards have
been verified and validated by a trusted
and nationally recognized third party.
The certification is a stand-alone program,
so a pharmacy does not need to be
accredited by The Compliance Team for
any other service. Once a pharmacy has
completed the program, it will receive the
Exemplary Provider designation, and the
certification is valid for two years.
GROWING MARKET DEMAND
While COVID-19 might be the main driver
for the new service, even before the
pandemic, pharmacies were seeing an
expansion in immunization services due
to a reduction in the amount of well visits
pediatricians were making, says Sandra
C. Canally, RN, the founder and CEO of
“That left it up to the pharmacy to
almost be the family immunizer,” she
explains. So, one of the reasons that we
created the certification was not only
the fact that the COVID-19 vaccine was
coming, but also because things were
being done by pharmacists that were not
previously done before.”
That, in turn, presented the need for
pharmacists to show their communities
that they had a third-party guarantee
of safety and quality for these types of
Of course, this has been a change for pharmacists, which
were handling immunizations mainly for adults for vaccinations
for flu, shingles, pneumonia, and the like. If they did kids, it
was mainly for those age 13 and higher. Most kids went to the
pediatrician for immunizations.
“Because of what’s happened with COVID and waivers and
the opening up of regulations around licenses and so forth,
they decided that, ‘Okay, this was an opportunity for, if they’re
already going to the corner pharmacy, why not expand that opportunity
there?’” Canally explains.
Canally being a nurse says this is a good thing. While nurses
might have typically done the actual administering of an immunization
shot in the past, broadening the types of people makes
sense. The actual technical steps involved in administering a
vaccine are such that anybody with the proper training can do
it. And that comes as good news during COVID-19, because it
helps increase the pace of vaccine spread.
“It’s all about access,” she says. “… The most important
thing is getting shots in the arms.”
That said, follow-through with the COVID-19 vaccine is just as
important, Canally notes. We’ve heard a lot about the CDC’s
vaccine partnerships with various major pharmacies immunizing
in large numbers, but there is lots of “behind the scenes”
administration and detail work that goes into each vaccination.
“Certainly before the shot goes in the arm, you’ve got the
storage of the vaccine and all the things operationally that need
to be in place,” she says. “Now, let’s say it’s three months from
now, and we have millions of people that are immunized. Well,
the other responsibility of an immunizer is to do quarterly reviews
or audits to ensure policies and procedures have been followed.”
This process works to ensure that each person got a second
dose when they were supposed to; that everything was recorded
in terms of any adverse reaction and that it was reported to
the proper channels; that everybody waited 15 minutes after
the shot was given to ensure safety. And this is where the need
for a third-party certification comes into play.
“These are all details and procedures that are difficult for
the pharmacies, whether it be independent or big chains to do
for themselves,” Canally says. “We can do that third-party verification
and validation that they did everything right. Or that we
found some gaps can advise them on issues to correct or areas
that are in need of improvement.”
So, essentially this service is about reassurance. It reassures
the pharmacy that it has a process and that it’s doing things
right. It reassures the patient that they’re working with a reliable
resource. It reassures the referring physicians that they have a
rock-solid partner. It reassures any funding source that it can
trust the services being billed. Moreover, it should reassure
anyone feeling a little wobbly about a brand new vaccine.
“They’re already trusting the safety and quality of their local
pharmacy because they’ve been business with the pharmacy for
many years,” Canally says. “So that trust and relationship has
already been established. Now they are taking it a step further,
thinking, ‘Oh, I don’t know if I trust the vaccine, but I feel good
that our neighborhood pharmacy is doing it. … They checked
all the boxes. They did everything to meet the CDC criteria.’”
Of course, providing vaccinations require some operational
procedures and assets in place in order to ensure proper service.
One such consideration is safe storage, which is important
for the COVID-19 vaccination.
“One of the big things right out of the gate is vaccine
handling and storage,” Canally says. “Each vaccine has its own
manufacture guidelines as it relates to storage, with refrigeration,
temperature control, and all of that.”
Others are procedures and patient communication. These are
particularly important with vaccines such as those for COVID-19
which require boosters. That can require very specific administrative
resources. Were patients given their follow-up date for their
second shot on a card? What is the preferred communication
method for reminders? Does the scheduling system have flexibility
built-into it for the inevitable complications that crop up?
Another issue for the COVID-19 vaccination is the required
15-minute wait. Canally says that could be “operationally challenging”
depending on a pharmacy’s facility.
“Do you have the space for that?” she asks. “Or are patients
being told to stay in their car? Is there some timing procedure
in place where you let them know that their time is up and it’s
okay for them to leave?
“There’s a very low incidence of severe adverse reactions,
but it can happen,” Canally reminds. “There are people with
multiple medical conditions that could react badly to vaccines.
So, the 15 minutes where you’re under some type of medical
supervision is really important.”
NEW SERVICE OPPORTUNITIES
The Compliance Team’s Exemplary Provider Immunization Certification
program, Including COVID-19 helps DME pharmacies tap
into new service opportunities, Canally says. They can attach that
certification to other vaccination and immunization angles.
“In becoming a hub for their community for immunization,
what some of the pharmacies have done is they have also translated
it into travel vaccines, for example,” she notes. “We’ve
had some of our chains do that, where they cover all different
information as it relates to the different countries.”
Obviously, if a client needs vaccinations before traveling having
a certification on top of that service is going to raise a lot of
consumer trust via a third-party validation of quality. Approaching
new market angles with that in mind can be a real booster
shot for the bottom line.
The Compliance Team’s Exemplary
Provider Immunization Certification
program, Including COVID-19 not only
helps DME pharmacies show they
support the CDC’s COVID-19 requirements
for both pharmacy network
administrators as well as independent
pharmacies, but also helps them tap
into new service opportunities.
For more information, visit www.thecomplianceteam.org or call (215) 654-9110.
This article originally appeared in the DME Pharmacy April 2021 issue of HME Business.