Vaccine Center of Excellence Virtual Workshop: BC

About the Speaker

Ajit Johal

RPh BSP BCPP CTH

Ajit has been providing immunizations and clinical education since 2012. As a community pharmacist, he is an accessible provider of immunizations to patients in the community. In 2018, he started an organization called immunize.io, with a mission statement of “taking our best shot at immunizing the world”. Through “immunize.io” he has worked with numerous organizations and communities to address “vaccine hesitancy” and improve access to vaccinations.  Ajit is also a clinical instructor for the University of British Columbia Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences Program. At UBC he coordinates the elective course for UBC Pharmacy students in travel health and immunizations.

Place of Practice:

Community Pharmacy and Private Practice (Travel Medicine) in Vancouver, British Columbia

Video

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Q&A

When I graduated from pharmacy school, I was very keen on a non-dispensary community pharmacy service which could improve patient outcomes. Serendipitously, pharmacists in British Columbia were being granted a vast increase in their immunization scope on the heels of the 2009 H1N1 scare. There was lots of opportunity to establish immunization services at the community pharmacy, not just influenza, but all recommended vaccinations including those for international travel. I also enjoy taking accountability for patient-clinical decision making, so when I recommend and administer a vaccination, I am playing an integral role in protecting my patients against preventable diseases.

There are many opportunities to incorporate immunizations in even the “busiest” of pharmacy practices. When patients “refill” their prescription for example, there is often limited clinically meaningful dialogue since the patient has been taking the medication for a long period of time. Using this opportunity to discuss immunizations makes the conversation more clinically meaningful and less “transactional”. Furthermore, with the COVID-19 pandemic and the growing need for community immunization services, pharmacies are seeing a dramatic shift in the time they dedicate to immunization services. I truly think this is an area that pharmacists can not only specialize in, but also focus their entire practice career on. Which I think is extremely rewarding.

In British Columbia, pharmacists can dispense and administer any vaccination as a schedule 2 product based on any national or international guideline. Simply put if BC pharmacist’s feel their patient could benefit from an immunization, they can administer it independently without a prescription. This is an incredibly expansive scope of practice, and one that pharmacists in BC should leverage much more often.

Most conversations I have with patients at the pharmacy focus on the topic of vaccinations. For travelling patients, discussions around mitigating the risk of disease based on unique travel itineraries. For older adults, age-related immune system decline puts them at risk of vaccine preventable diseases such as shingles and pneumococcal disease. For all patients, the opportunity to prevent cancer, through complete immunization with the HPV vaccination prevents a unique opportunity rarely available. Most patients you will see at your pharmacy will have an “immunization gap”, which you should address!

Pharmacists should embrace their growing role as community immunizers as it finally represents our much-discussed role of “accessible” healthcare providers. We must continue to rise to the challenges presented by growing healthcare needs of our population and the shrinking capacity of our acute care system. To truly excel as a community immunizer, pharmacists need to be “all in”. In that they prioritize the discussion and administration of vaccinations as part of their day-to-day in their duty to care for their patients.