Undergraduate pharmacy programmes should incorporate vaccination training to help improve access to and uptake of immunisations, the International Pharmaceutical Federation has said.

The suggestion came as part of a suite of recommendations put forward by the federation to help enable greater access to and uptake of vaccinations throughout a patient’s life.

In a report published this month, the FIP highlighted the importance of a ‘life course’ approach to vaccinations, including during pregnancy and in older age.

This would require expanding access to and delivery of vaccinations in community settings, the report said.

And it recommended a suite of policy enablers that could help pharmacists play a greater role in vaccine delivery globally.

In particular, FIP said that improvements could be made to vaccine regulation, prescribing service remuneration models, and access to data and vaccination records.

One suggestion was that vaccination education and training should be incorporated into pharmacy undergraduate criteria.

Currently, pharmacists in Great Britain can undertake vaccination training through approved accredited providers, as an additional component to their pharmacy education. This training must be revalidated on a regular basis.

The report also recommended:

  • Pharmacists become key stakeholders in national vaccination policies
  • Pharmacists should be given access to patient vaccination records
  • Updated legislation, guidelines and policies should be updated to support pharmacy-based vaccination
  • Regulatory reform and fair compensation for pharmacy-based immunisation
  • A collaborative approach between healthcare professionals toward vaccination and health equity

Better enabling pharmacists to deliver vaccinations would improve access as community pharmacies are ‘easy, convenient’ ways for people to access health facilities, especially those with work commitments or those in hard-to-reach social groups, the report said.

Bringing vaccination services out of hospitals and busier healthcare facilities and into community pharmacies would also reduce the risk of vulnerable people contracting infectious diseases, the report added.

Giving pharmacists a greater role in vaccine delivery could also help combat vaccine hesitancy and complacency, and improve health literacy, because pharmacists are more embedded within – and often from – a particular community.

Speaking to a health professional in person would also be helpful for older people, who might struggle to access information online, to become aware of and understand vaccinations, their benefits and side effects, the report said.

Laura Wilson, Director for Scotland at the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS), commented that 'Pharmacists have a brilliant track record of delivering vaccination programmes, providing millions of flu vaccinations each year, and playing a crucial part in the success of the Covid-19 vaccination roll-out.'

She added: 'Pharmacies are at the heart of communities and expanding vaccination services will reduce health inequalities. This is especially the case in deprived areas where trusted local pharmacists have proven their ability to address vaccine hesitancy in their communities.

'With the right support and resources, pharmacists are ideally placed to further enhance their involvement in vaccinations. Through regular revalidation, pharmacists demonstrate competence in vaccine administration, basic life support and managing anaphylaxis with a strong focus on patient centred care and safety. It is essential access to training for pharmacists in all the necessary components to deliver a safe and effective service is easily accessible, and patients have equity of access to vaccination programmes through pharmacies where they are needed.'

The FIP report comes after an influential committee of MPs recommended that pharmacists should play a ‘critical role’ in vaccine delivery, highlighting the accessibility of community pharmacy.