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Researchers work to improve immunization rates

Photo of Elizabeth Skoy

Skoy

NDSU researchers have received a nearly $10,000 North Dakota Department of Health grant to help increase adult immunization rates. The team is developing a targeted education program for state pharmacists. The work includes a survey recently sent to all pharmacists in North Dakota.

Elizabeth Skoy, associate professor of practice in pharmacy practice, is leading the effort. Collaborators include Michael Kelsch, associate professor of practice and vice chair in the School of Pharmacy, and Dr. Paul Carson and Kylie Hall from the Center for Immunization Research and Education in the NDSU Department of Public Health.

The grant’s title is “Increasing North Dakota’s Adult Vaccination Rates,” and the project consists of developing and delivering a minimum of three one-hour pharmacy-based education modules to pharmacists within the 20 counties with adult immunization rates below 30 percent for pneumococcal and shingles. The counties are primarily in the western and southcentral parts of North Dakota

State law allows authorized pharmacists to provide any immunization to individuals 11 years and older. Currently, 364 registered North Dakota pharmacists are authorized to provide immunizations. But, that number represents only 41 percent of state pharmacists, and they provide less than 9 percent of all administered pneumococcal immunizations to adults 65 and over and approximately 30 percent of all zoster vaccines to adults 60 year and older, according to the North Dakota Immunization Information System.

Additionally, most “chain” pharmacies have companywide directives and educational modules to increase providing immunizations within their pharmacies. Independently-owned pharmacies, on the other hand, do not have access to the same educational modules and directives.

The researchers are now surveying approximately 900 pharmacists across the state and making phone calls to pharmacies in counties with low adult immunization rates.

“Our goal for the survey is to conduct a needs assessment to determine physical and educational resources needed for pharmacists regarding adult immunizations. Pharmacists are arguably the most accessible health care provider, especially in some of our more rural areas of North Dakota,” Skoy explained. “Our goal from the grant awarded by the North Dakota Department of Health is to increase adult immunization rates through targeted pharmacist education. However, before we can develop the educational materials and resources, we need to find out what pharmacists would find to be most helpful and perceived barriers to immunization delivery.”

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