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NACDS op-ed reinforces pharmacies’ continued role in COVID-19 vaccinations

NACDS chair Colleen Lindholz and vice chair Brian Nightengale emphasized pharmacies’ continued role in fostering vaccine confidence and ensuring equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines.
Sandra Levy
Senior Editor
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On Wednesday, an op-ed co-authored by Colleen Lindholz, president of Kroger Health and chair of NACDS, and Brian Nightengale, president of Good Neighbor Pharmacy and vice chair of NACDS, was published in Morning Consult Health.

The piece centers on pharmacies’ continued role in fostering vaccine confidence and ensuring equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines.

In the op-ed, the pair wrote "16 months into the climb, our nation has before it the ultimate challenge related to COVID-19: instilling sufficient vaccine confidence to reach the summit of full pandemic recovery. The pharmacies and pharmacists that have helped Americans throughout the grueling journey remain crucial for this culminating stage of the effort."

The authors noted that to help confront COVID, pharmacies stepped up across the country to support their communities. They have stayed open to meet patients’ needs from the pandemic’s earliest days. They ramped up testing and helped to prevent a feared “twindemic” with flu shots. "Through months of COVID-19 vaccination planning and investment and since day one of getting shots to arms, pharmacies have applied experience and expertise to vaccinate efficiently, conveniently and equitably.”

[Read more: Pharmacy chains expand vaccination hours during "National Month of Action"]

The op-ed continued, “The work is far from over. Pharmacies remain all-in to meet President Joe Biden’s goal of 70% of the adult population receiving at least one vaccine shot by July 4, and to help execute the recently announced National Month of Action in support of that objective.

"Much has been said about pharmacies’ accessibility and convenience that bring to bear significant advantages. At least one of the country’s 56,000 pharmacies — national and regional chains and independents alike — is located within 5 miles of 90% of Americans, according to National Association of Chain Drug Stores' estimates based on data of IQVIA and the National Council for Prescription Drug Programs. Our nation now has abundant vaccine supply, and many pharmacies now offer walk-in vaccinations without appointments.

Lindholz and Nightengale added, "Today, pharmacies big and small are collaborating with local houses of worship, mayors, local television personalities, shelters, schools, civic groups and others to foster pivotal conversations that can make a difference.

"The reliance on pharmacists as trusted messengers and healthcare destinations is not new. They have served in this role during natural disasters, the H1N1 pandemic of a decade ago and annual flu-vaccination initiatives. They were recognized as vital partners in the rollout of the Medicare Part D prescription drug benefit and the Affordable Care Act.

“Pharmacies and pharmacists are there to help guide Americans on topics related to COVID-19 vaccinations. They can answer questions, bust myths, talk through hesitancies, clarify options and generally serve as one of the most trusted resources for one of the most important health-and-wellness decisions of this moment in time.

The authors concluded that right now, we need to reach the summit in our nation’s recovery from COVID-19. "Along the way, Americans weighing their decision should know they can turn to their local pharmacy and pharmacist for the science, the support and ultimately for the shot,” they noted.