Vaccines for Teens
Fill an expanding market for immunizations
Don’t wait for flu season to offer immunizations. By using the investments your pharmacy has already made to offer flu shots and by leveraging work you’ve already done—in training, getting certified, allocating space, bringing in inventory, and being able to bill—you can expand your pharmacy’s services to adolescent vaccines, bringing in more business during the summer and back-to-school season. Leveraging the work you’ve already done makes good business sense, and the demand for additional immunization services is growing.
Going Beyond Flu Vaccines
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommends routine vaccination of adolescents for:
- Meningococcal disease (MCV4)
- Tetanus, diphtheria and acellular pertussis (Tdap)
- Human papillomavirus (HPV)
School requirements indicate what types of vaccines students need, and state regulations dictate what pharmacies can offer. Consider these factors:
- New immunization requirements. Starting with the 2008–2009 school year, many states added requirements for middle school students to have the tetanus, diphtheria, and acellular pertussis (Tdap) vaccine. Since 2000, states and colleges also have added requirements for college students to receive vaccines for meningococcal disease and hepatitis B.
- Expanded authority for pharmacists. Many states are now allowing pharmacists to offer vaccines to more people. For example, in 2012 Illinois began allowing pharmacists to administer influenza and Tdap vaccines to children as young as 10. And a Wyoming law that took effect July 1, 2013, allows pharmacists to vaccinate children as young as 7. Efforts are underway in some states to allow pharmacists to administer all of the vaccines that the CDC recommends to anyone over age 8. (Here is a link to immunization resources for each state: http://www.immunize.org/states/.)
- Competition from big chains. Larger chains often promote their ability to offer convenient back-to-school vaccines in select locations. Some are also offering sports physicals for students. Independent community pharmacies that don’t offer convenient vaccines for students may see their customers stopping at their competitors’ pharmacies instead.
Filling a Gap
While some pharmacists may be reluctant to immunize very young children, the preteen and teen years are an important time for immunizations. Protection from vaccines received as infants and toddlers begins to wear off; and older children develop risks for other diseases at a time when many are less likely to make regular visits to a physician.
Pharmacies are in a great position to offer parents a convenient way to keep older children on track with their immunizations.
Albers Medical Pharmacy in Kansas City, Mo., began offering flu shots in 1998 and expanded to immunizations for teenagers around 2000, said co-owner Adam Emo, Pharm.D. The pediatrician’s office located above the pharmacy was looking for a place where older adolescents could receive vaccines, and Albers gladly and easily expanded to serve that niche.
Because Albers already offered flu vaccines, its pharmacists were already certified to offer immunizations. To offer vaccines to teens, Emo said putting new policies and procedures in place to cover the expanded vaccine service was the most important thing to do. The pharmacy also had to notify the state board that it would be offering the immunizations.
News spread by word of mouth that Albers could provide vaccines for older adolescents, and the pharmacy contacted other doctors’ offices to make them aware of this offering and to encourage referrals. When you expand your immunization services, “get the word out and market it correctly,” Emo advised.
Albers also offers travel immunizations and caters to church groups planning missionary or relief work.
For Emo, the demand for older teens’ vaccines usually picks up in late spring and early summer with the end of the school year and adolescents’ planning mission trips and preparing for college. Although certified pharmacists in Missouri can administer immunizations to children as young as 12, Emo said that most children at this age still go to their pediatricians for vaccines. That has led Albers to focus on older teenagers and college-age kids.
Lead In to Flu Season
Summer is a great time to promote adolescent immunizations, just before students head back to school. You can link promotion activity to National Immunization Awareness Month in August and any back-to-school promotions you are offering.
When customers come in for those shots, you can tell them that your pharmacy also offers flu shots and add them to your database to contact during flu season with immunization reminders. There remains a significant flu shot opportunity as each year only about a third of children in the 13- to 17-year-old range receive a vaccination for influenza.
By offering more types of immunization, the space and other resources you have allocated to deliver flu shots won’t sit vacant in other months. Your pharmacy can become the place customers think about first whenever they need a vaccine.
Ensure Adequate Supply
Once you decide which vaccines to offer, you will need to ensure having an adequate supply on hand. McKesson customers can order vaccines through McKesson Connect SM and expect delivery within one to three days.