STChealth Initiates New Public-Private Partnership to Handle The Coming Massive Increase in Vaccinations

The average number of all vaccines shipped for use in U.S., per year (from 2006 to 2016) was 281 million. There’s talk of administering COVID-19 vaccinations to 300 million Americans.

How do we prepare to take on a huge increase in the number of vaccinations administered each year? One major solution could come from the new Pharmacy-Public Health COVID-19 Collaboration. In April and May of this year, STChealth brought together a select group of state public health and major pharmacy immunization professionals. They met to start the process of addressing and breaking down barriers that impede vaccination programs. This group, formally called “The Navigators”, created a program with a focus on energizing public health and pharmacy partnerships to influence and overcome traditional challenges that limit our ability to mitigate the risks associated with vaccine preventable disease.

Why a new partnership with public health with a focus on pharmacists? Who has the bandwidth to handle all the millions of additional vaccinations? Pharmacists. One of the leaders of the new effort, retired Rear Admiral and former Assistant Surgeon General Pamela Schweitzer, said this about her time working in the field during a crisis:

“I was deployed for H1N1, part of a team responsible for vaccinations in three states in the Southwest. We were being sent doses of the vaccine but we weren’t getting it out fast enough. We asked ourselves, who could do it quickest? The answer? The pharmacists. They can do the volume versus doctors’ offices. In many instances, pharmacists worked with the communities to help organize mass vaccination events.”

Jason Briscoe, Director of Pharmacy Operations for Discount Drug Mart, put it this way:

“Pharmacists are intensely trained clinicians uniquely accessible to our patients and communities. Rapport and relationship developed over time equate to trust, and trust leads to recommendations, such as a vaccine, being accepted.”

Briscoe summed up his thinking this way: “Can we as pharmacists do more? If our number is called, we’ll be ready.”

To that end, a couple of key outcomes have been achieved. Firstly, due to the efforts of Stacy Hall, Jason Briscoe, Pam Schweitzer, and The Navigators, the CDC has posted two new guidance statements. The first is a framework for provision of non-COVID-19 clinical care during the pandemic that walks back the earlier guidance to delay immunizations. The second is guidance specifically for pharmacies that clarifies PPE recommendations. The CDC hopes to release more detailed guidance on safe administration of vaccines during the pandemic, which will include additional information relevant to pharmacies. The Navigators believe that the clearer guidance will help pharmacists increase their confidence vaccinating.

Secondly, In response to a call for the strongest seasonal influenza vaccination campaign this fall, Jude Alden, Immunization Unit Manager for the state of Wyoming, reached out and suggested The Navigators focus on a national adult influenza campaign. This suggestion led to the formation of the Adult Immunization Subgroup (AIS). The AIS held its first meeting on June 4th and discussed how to harness the power of data and analytics, how COVID could impact flu season this fall, and how pharmacies can help close gaps in vaccine coverage.

Going forward, this partnership will continue to pursue outcomes that result in removing barriers to administering vaccines in Pharmacies. If you are interested in learning more about The Navigators, or would be interested in becoming a member and helping move our mission forward, please contact Shreya Angana at