A female pharmacist in a stockroom.

NCPA survey highlights how independents are vaccinating underserved groups

Almost half of the respondents in a survey conducted by the National Community Pharmacists Association said they were serving populations with a significant minority population, and nearly 80% operate in places with fewer than 50,000 people.
Sandra Levy
Senior Editor
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A new survey of independent pharmacists released by the National Community Pharmacists Association that drills down on the demographics of independent pharmacies, shows that while the majority are serving socially vulnerable patients, almost half of independents are not getting enough or any doses of the coronavirus vaccine to serve their patients.

In the survey, 47% of respondents say they are serving populations with a significant minority population. Nearly 80% operate in places with fewer than 50,000 people, with almost 40% serving a population of less than 10,000.

“Reaching socially vulnerable patients with vaccines continues to be a key problem that community pharmacists can solve. The administration recently announced a dramatic expansion of the number of pharmacies that will get the vaccine. That’s great news, but we need to be sure the supply can meet that demand,” said NCPA CEO Doug Hoey.

According to the survey, 39% of independent pharmacists say at least a quarter of the prescriptions they fill are covered by Medicaid. Forty-two percent described the communities they serve as mostly low-income. Roughly 48% said inadequate supply was by far their biggest problem.

The survey also found that 22% of independent pharmacists identified patient reluctance as a problem. Many public surveys show vaccine hesitancy decreasing. "That’s another good sign," said Hoey, "but reaching the remaining population is critical to the national goal of widespread immunity. Americans trust their local pharmacist, and they can be very helpful educating people about COVID-19 and the vaccines.

Hoey went on to say that independent pharmacists live in the communities they serve. "They are often prominent local business leaders and active in the civic life of the community. That’s especially true in communities of color, where community pharmacists often have strong ties, they and their staffs are part of the fabric of their neighborhood, and they can reach socially vulnerable populations in ways that larger pharmacies cannot.”

Hoey said that public health officials must fully integrate independent pharmacies in the rollout and help highlight to their constituents all of the various locations, including independent pharmacies where the vaccines are available.

The NCPA survey is based on 515 responses to a survey sent to roughly 5,000 pharmacy owners/managers from April 1-April 7.