Pharmacists take the lead in adoption of vaccination services in the Arabian Gulf

Dr Nadine Tarcha, Pfizer’s Gulf medical director, explains how the initiative seeks to benefit people, bridges inequities and helps adult immunisation in the region


Joydeep Sengupta

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Dr Nadine Tarcha. — Supplied photo
Dr Nadine Tarcha. — Supplied photo

Published: Tue 31 Jan 2023, 9:54 PM

Pharmacists across the UAE recently joined hands to develop one more layer of primary prevention by vaccinating people in community pharmacies in a bid to advance public health.

A pharmacist-administered vaccination is being considered as a convenient and new gateway for the public to receive immunisations.

Gulf Medical University’s College of Pharmacy with the support of pharmaceutical major Pfizer recently organised the Middle East conference on pharmacist-administered vaccination at Shangri-La Hotel Dubai.

The event, which acted as a knowledge hub for pharmacy veterans, discussed the latest community pharmacy trends across the globe, highlighting the cost-effectiveness of the model and its role in boosting the healthcare economy.

The event, which included participation from over 350 individuals from pharmacies, hospitals, the pharmaceutical industry, academia and government entities, set the tone for the widespread adoption of vaccination services by pharmacists. Experts from the UAE, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the USA shared experiences, best practices, education and training of pharmacists and government regulations, all backed by research analysis from local, regional and international studies, and its contribution to improving public health. Vaccination services by pharmacists in the community pharmacy setting are changing the face of pharmacies from retail outlets to patient care centres.

Dr Nadine Tarcha, Pfizer’s Gulf medical director, spoke to Khaleej Times about the widespread adoption of vaccination services by pharmacists and how the initiative seeks to benefit people.

Edited excerpts from the interview:

What is the benefit of having pharmacists administer vaccines?

Pharmacist-administered vaccinations address one of the most commonly cited barriers to immunisation which is accessibility and hesitancy. By enabling and training pharmacists to administer vaccines, and implementing effective communication strategies, it allows for patients and other members of their surrounding communities to conveniently access life-saving preventative measures and learn about the safety and efficacy of available vaccines. This is especially important in the event of diseases outbreaks and pandemics, where prevention and preparation are key elements of disease control. Upskilling pharmacists to administer vaccines elevates their role in both the healthcare ecosystem as well as their local communities.

How does this help bridge inequities in the Arabian Gulf?

Studies show that the introduction of pharmacist-administered vaccinations positively impacts vaccination coverage rates especially when people tend to be more exposed to the risk of infection and may not have had the opportunity to get immunised. The role of community pharmacies in vaccination has exceptional success in countries where vaccines are administered by pharmacists. Pharmacists are well positioned to improve vaccination rates and can act as patient educator and immuniser, which encourages patients to make informed decisions about getting vaccinated.

Why is adult immunisation important?

When a patient has a serious infection, they may be treated with antibiotic or antiviral medications that aid their body in fighting the pathogen. While these medicines can be effective, fighting an infection once it’s advanced and the patient is hospitalised is not as easy as preventing it in the first place. Senior citizens above 65 and adults with underlying medical conditions require a focus on preventative health interventions to meet health burdens. Adult immunistion will save time, money, and most importantly, lives, while at the same time improving the health span and overall health of local communities. From the perspective of the healthcare ecosystem, when more adults are vaccinated and suffer less from preventable diseases, there is a reduced burden and cost to healthcare systems. The minimised burden allows healthcare professionals to provide care to as many patients as possible. While the positive impact of adult vaccination is well documented, it is a reality that vaccine coverage remains low in some countries. It’s important for both the private and public sector, as well as academia, to collaborate and find ways to bridge this gap.

What is Pfizer doing to help with adult immunisation?

At Pfizer, we’ve a long history in vaccine research and development. Through the development of novel vaccines, we have created innovations for preventing deadly bacterial infections like those caused by S. pneumoniae and N. meningitidis. Today, more than at any time in history, people are benefiting from safe and effective vaccines to prevent infections and diseases. These injections have protected people of all ages, from newborns to seniors. We’re working with a number of stakeholders to provide our expertise and resources for novel approaches that can help to strengthen healthcare systems where greater support may be needed. We continue to focus on research and development in new areas, with the goal of adding more approved vaccines to tackle pathogens. Pfizer has recently partnered through an independent educational grant with Gulf Medical University’s College of Pharmacy to organise the Middle East Conference on Pharmacist-Administered Vaccination. It is the region’s first-of-its-kind event, which aimed to set the scene for the widespread adoption of vaccination services by pharmacists backed by a series of shared experiences, best practices, education and training of pharmacists and government regulations.

How does Pfizer play a key role in facilitating access of vaccines to markets across the region?

Pfizer is working closely with governments, ministries of health as well as local public health partners to achieve equitable and affordable access of vaccines for all people across the region while adhering to stringent criteria of efficacy, safety and quality. Country readiness plays a critical role in ensuring the country is able to effectively receive, transport and administer the vaccine doses that it received. Specifically, this includes acceptance by the country’s regulatory body, confirmation that the country is able meet product handling requirements, and the development of a delivery strategy to reach target populations. We work relentlessly to leverage our decades of experience and expertise in development, testing, manufacturing, and distribution along with our partnerships to provide a safe and effective vaccine for all.

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