Dec 13 2021

Keep Your Patients COVID-Informed and Safe this Holiday Season

Americans will again have to contend with an unwanted guest this holiday season, as the COVID-19 virus continues to pose a threat nationwide. But with vaccines, boosters, and therapeutics widely available, along with a better understanding of the virus, the 2021 holiday season can be a lot more festive than last year. Pharmacists will continue to have a leading role in keeping patients informed, administering vaccines, and maintaining supplies of protective gear and medications.

Pharmacy Times put together a "pharmacy review list" to help pharmacies prepare for the busy season. This guidance is helpful since, as the article points out, with approval of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for children between the ages of 5-and-11, pharmacists now have a new patient demographic.

The review list includes:

  • Prepare for the 5-11 age group. Administering vaccines to young children can be quite different from experiences with adults. Pharmacy Times recommends taking a few steps to make the experience as easy as possible.
    • Create a child-friendly treatment space. Hanging a few colorful or fun posters and putting out stuffed animals can go a long way toward creating a comfortable treatment space. In addition, make sure the space is private, and large enough to accommodate not only the child-patient, but parents and siblings who may also be present.
    • Be ready for questions: This age group will certainly be aware of the COVID-19 virus, since it has affected their school settings and overall lifestyles. But kids being kids, pharmacists should expect questions. Lots of questions. Pharmacists should be prepared to spend a few extra minutes, answering questions and ensuring the child is comfortable about receiving the vaccine.
    • Don't forget the reward: Children are accustomed to commemorating doctor or dentist visits with stickers or some type of inexpensive trinket. As Pharmacy Times points out, "children like a marker to show an achievement and the COVID-19 vaccine is a big one!" Be sure to have something on hand to commemorate the occasion, and reward patients for their bravery.

  • Consider other steps to accommodate younger vaccine recipients: 
    • Ensure adequate supplies of smaller needles.
    • Ensure adequate supplies of the specialized vaccine doses.
    • Male sure adequate "lanes" are available for scheduling appointments.

  • Prepare for Increased Demand for Rapid Testing.
    • Holiday gatherings will mean an increased demand for rapid testing. And demand is expected to be even stronger due to the recent arrival of the Omicron variant, which is believed to be even more transmissible than the Delta variant.
    • Pharmacists can plan for this spike in demand by making the tests available, and by continuing to provide good counsel to patients. Should a pharmacy not have adequate supplies of rapid tests, be ready with a list of alternative locations that do have supplies.

  • Information will continue to be king!
    • It's hard to keep up with COVID-related news. Updates arrive regularly regarding vaccine mandates, booster eligibility, children's eligibility, therapeutic approval, Delta, Omicron, and just about all other issues related to the pandemic. This rapidly changing guidance can be a source of confusion for patients, which is why pharmacists will continue to be trusted sources of information. A pharmacist may want to put together a flier, or other type of handout that provides a "COVID Q&A." Having ready access to this information can go a long way toward allaying patients' concerns. Make sure the document can be easily updated though, to reflect new requirements and CDC recommendations.

Americans are eager to celebrate the holidays by gathering with family and friends. Pharmacists can help ensure patients' take the proper precautions, as we look ahead to continued progress during 2022.